The abundance of home improvement information that's available via the Internet, television, DVDs, books and magazines empowers homeowners who are looking for a challenge and a way to save money.
How hard can it be to fix a leaky roof, trim low-hanging tree branches or put in a new kitchen floor? All you have to do is find the necessary tools and carve out the time, right? Then, depending on the project, within a few hours, days or weeks, the work is done and you have saved a bundle.
Maybe — if you don't hurt yourself in the process. Novices who don't always take the right precautions could find themselves in the emergency room or worse.
Obviously, homeowners are not about to give up the fun or the satisfaction of doing it themselves. That's why medical and home improvement retail experts urge consumers to use common sense, use the right equipment for a project, learn how to use that equipment correctly and know when to call in the professionals.
What goes up
Among the most common injuries is a tumble from a ladder.
"My assumption is that they are DIYers trying to do their own (tree) trimming and sometimes they don't use the right equipment or they don't use ladders properly," said James Fenn, manager of trauma and disaster services at Flower Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. Any money saved on a do-it-yourself home project winds up going to medical care, Fenn said.
For example, when it's time to climb a ladder, leave the flip-flops in the house in favor of sturdy work shoes.
Dr. David Ledrick, an emergency room physician at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, said people take a tumble when they try to do something that requires two people instead of one or when a person tries to balance on a ladder that is not tall enough for the job.
Don't drink and . . .
Everyone knows about the don't-drink-and-drive campaign. Believe it or not, some people try to do a project while inebriated.
"Every summer we see a proportion of injuries in relation to alcohol," Fenn said. "It's amazing how alcohol gives you more confidence that you can do something that you actually cannot do."
And just as fatigue decreases a motorist's effectiveness while driving, it influences the ability to properly handle tools or perform a home improvement task. Accidents also may be more likely, Ledrick suggested, when someone is under "a personal or spousal deadline."
Safety can be sacrificed when homeowners put in a regular workday and then take up a project at home in the evening, or when weekend warriors try to complete in two days a project that might otherwise take longer.
"Their attention to detail and caution kind of wanes a little bit," Ledrick said.
To avoid injuries, retailers recommend that consumers ask themselves some questions first.
"The first step of any home improvement project is figuring out what you can do," said Abby Buford, a spokesman for Lowe's. "Do I have the skills and knowledge to undertake this project? Do I have the proper tools? Can I complete the project safely?"
Read the instructions
The affordability of table saws, routers, nail guns and drills can get the adrenaline rolling in the most novice do-it-yourselfer. Whatever the equipment, Jennifer King, a spokeswoman for Home Depot, urged not ignoring the pamphlets and guidelines that come with it.
DIYers also can take advantage of home improvement stores' websites that show how to do just about anything. Some stores sponsor workshops to help consumers with their projects and let them see how to use equipment and assess whether they really can take on a project.
For instance, King said that installing a door might appear to be a quick and easy job. "But if the house is older and the frame is off, it could be really challenging, and we suggest they might want to consult a pro.
"Whether it's electrical or water, there are safety precautions that you need to take," she said, emphasizing the need to read instructions. "The instructions are there for a reason."
Scripps Howard News Service