Homeowners Beware of DIY Repair Dangers

Do-it-yourself home projects are often not as easy as they seem.

Aug. 21, 2009— -- In this economy, "do-it-yourself" home repairs have never sounded so good, and penny pinchers across the country are rolling up their sleeves, opening their toolboxes, and tackling home projects.

With the help of the Internet, TV advice shows, and some basic tools, you may wonder if you need a professional at all.

But "do-it-yourself" isn't always as easy as it may seem.

Cathy and Will Huiras of Fishers, Ind., thought moving their stereo cabinet from one place on their wall to another would be simple.

"We thought we had found a stud in the wall and unfortunately, we drilled into a copper pipe," Cathy said. "At the time, it didn't produce any water. We thought we were safe."

Several months later, however, the water finally appeared, in little puddles on the carpet.

Will Huiras said a large area of their living room was affected by the water.

"The dry wall had to come out," he said. "The paint bubbled and we had to peel all the paint off the wall and peel off the old, wet, sticky dry wall."

"It turned out to be quite a horrific day," Cathy said. "We turned the water off but water was still squirting out. The carpet was a mess. It was quite an ordeal."

After hiring pros to fix the pipe and install new dry wall, the couple was out close to $500.

Despite horror stories like that, other happy homeowners are still picking up their hammers.

In a recent Time magazine poll, 36 percent of people said they are spending less on home improvements, but 23 percent said they are doing more home repairs themselves rather than hiring help.

The argument for going with the pros isn't just about saving money in the long run. It's also about saving yourself. Emergency room doctors say they have treated more do-it-yourself injuries in the past year as people cut corners to save money.

Matt Taylor of Danville, Ill., might have avoided a 3-and-a-half inch nail in his wrist if he'd hired an expert. He was framing a door in his basement when things went awry.

Do-It-Yourself Must-Haves: Tools, Time, Experience

"I really just should've had two hands on the nail gun and this would never have happened," Taylor said. "I was above my head -- I had my left hand down to the side, and I was shooting it into a board. When it recoiled back, it popped back and came straight down into my wrist."

Taylor said he "screamed like a little bit of a girl," but fortunately, doctors were able to safely remove the nail.

"I think definitely the economy has played a role in consumers wanting to do more projects on their own," said Angie Hicks, the founder of Angie's List, the popular Web site based in Indianapolis, Ind., that gives consumer reviews of contractors.

"Consumers can certainly spend more money on a do-it-yourself project," she said, "especially if they are investing in equipment that they don't have and if they really get in over their head."

Contractor Eric Schneller, from Crew Property and Improvement Specialists, in Carmel, Ind., often gets calls from homeowners who are in too deep -- literally.

"They'll try to put up a shelf and pull down the drywall, because they didn't find a stud," he said. "It was too heavy of a shelf. They hang a mirror, the mirror is way too heavy, they didn't put it in studs."

Schneller says before you start any project, you need three things: time, tools and experience.

"It's great if you have the experience to do it, by all means, give it a shot," he said. "But if not, hire a professional."

Cathy Huiras says she learned that lesson the hard way.

"Yeah, we're not tradesmen by profession," she said. "We need to stick to our day jobs, I think."

Safety advocates say there are certain projects you should always leave to the experts, including:


Electrical work

Roof repairs

Anything involving high ladders, like gutter repairs

The next time you reach for your tool kit, depending on the project, you might want to reach for your phone and call a professional instead.

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