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Doing it yourself can be dangerous

by Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List

The holidays are approaching, which means many of us are working on — or are thinking about taking on — last-minute projects in preparation for guests and festivities.

While the temptation might be there to take on jobs around the house to save money — or because we think we're Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor — many of us attempt projects for which we simply are not qualified. Often, those good intentions end up with disastrous and costly results.

According to an online poll of Angie's List members, 60 percent said they had a home improvement project planned this year, and nearly a third of you planned to do the work yourselves.

Well, that has me worried. Members have shared plenty of stories with us over the years about how they staple-gunned themselves to their siding, fell off ladders or cut themselves with chain saws. DIY can be dangerous.

I had an employee recently tell me about how she began trimming a tree in her yard while standing on a rickety ladder. She had lifted up the chain saw and moved the safety to "off" when fortunately her brain kicked into high gear. She remembered the research about serious injuries from ladder falls we've gathered at Angie's List.

According to a 2007 Center for Injury Research and Policy study, 136,000 Americans will end up in the emergency room this year due to ladder-related injuries alone. She got down off the ladder and got help instead.

Lake Charles, La., member Duke Lauw tried to build a deck himself and nearly cut his fingers off with a table saw in the process. In a turn of events worthy of a prime-time sitcom, Lauw tried to run to the bathroom, tripped and hit his head on the deck and wound up with a twisted ankle, three cut fingers and a concussion. Fortunately, Lauw is OK and can laugh off the incident now, but it was a painful lesson.

Danville, Ill., member Matt Taylor's story isn't for the squeamish. Taylor was framing a door in his basement and didn't have a good grip on the nail gun he was using. The gun recoiled when he pulled the trigger and fired a 3 1/2-inch nail into his wrist. Fortunately, doctors were able to remove the nail safely.

Errant nail gun injuries happen more frequently than I imagined. According to a Duke University study, nail guns sent 35,000 Americans to the ER last year.

Stories like these and the statistics to support them offer strong evidence that too many people simply don't have the training and experience of a licensed and insured professional. And not only can doing it yourself be dangerous, it can be expensive as well.

According to our poll, 83 percent of members who took part said you take on DIY projects to save money. But one in five who did it yourself ended up calling in a pro to finish the job and — in many cases — undo the damage you did (with only the best intentions, of course).

Paying for the same job twice is bad news, especially in this economy. Add a hospital bill to that and you're talking about one costly project. So, unless you have the tools, expertise and ability to take on those DIY projects, take a step back, put down the chain saw, put away the rickety ladder and get help instead.


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Each year, tens of millions of homeowners take on do-it-yourself household projects, but one in five DIYers ends up getting hurt. Know your limits.

Comments

I applaud Angie’s column on “DIY Dangers.” I believe you have offered the readers a valuable public service relative to the hazards associated with various types of home improvement projects. We’ve seen, treated and dealt with not only the physical injury, but the emotional and psychological consequences. I must, however, state that even the experienced and licensed professionals make it to our doorstep.

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