NORTHBROOK, Ill., April 9, 2010 – When the paint starts to chip and the weeds peek through the grass, homeowners everywhere strap on their tool belts, determined to fix up their homes themselves. In fact, more than 40 percent of Americans are planning on tackling do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement projects this year. But homeowners, specifically parents, beware: home improvement accidents send thousands of people to the emergency room each year. Whether you’re a first-time DIY’er wall-papering your child’s room for the first time, or a veteran DIY guru remodeling your basement for the third time, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is urging homeowners to make safety part of their home improvement plan.

According to UL, DIY’ers should keep safety in their tool belts before, during and after home improvement projects. The 115 year-old product safety testing organization says projects that require practices, such as climbing ladders or using power tools, can often lead to injuries if proper safety precautions are not taken.

"With kids running around, a leaky bathroom faucet, a lawn that needs to be mowed and a house that needs to be repainted, it’s easy for parents to overlook the potential safety hazards associated with fixing up the home," says UL’s consumer safety director John Drengenberg. "Regardless of your level of experience with home improvement projects, we recommend parents slow down, take safety precautions, and follow UL’s safety tips throughout the process."

Safety Tips for the Amateur DIY’er

Popular home improvement television shows have empowered viewers to tackle projects themselves instead of hiring professionals. For the amateur DIY’er, who has rarely climbed a ladder or used a power tool, UL recommends:

Use the 4-to-1 rule for proper ladder placement. For every four feet of ladder height, the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall or object it is leaning against.

  • As a rule, be sure to inspect your power tools. When taking your tools out of the tool box for the first time this spring, be sure to inspect them for frayed power cords and cracked or broken enclosures. If the product is damaged, have it repaired by a qualified technician, or replace it.
  • Before you mow, have the owner’s manual in tow. When pulling out the lawn mower for the first time this year, refresh your memory and read the owner’s manual. Especially, know how to stop the machine in case of an emergency.

Safety Tips for the Veteran DIY’er

The homeowner who tackles DIY home improvement projects ever year most likely follows their intuition – instead of instructions – and may be more prone to accidents than the amateur DIY’er. For the veteran DIY’er, UL recommends: 

  • Avoid overconfidence. Products are made for certain tasks and have safety features for specific reasons. Never try to use a product in a different way than it is intended, alter it, or remove safety features such as blade guards or electric plug grounding pins.
  • It takes two hands to use a power tool. Use clamps or a vise to hold work in place. It’s safer than using your hands and frees both to operate the tool. Even when using a conventional hand tool, be sure to watch where you place your hands.
  • Know your limits. Drengenberg says, "tackle only those DIY home improvement projects that you feel comfortable handling. Some projects are best left to trained professionals and are not worth the risk."

For more information on DIY home improvement safety tips, go to www.ul.com/consumers.