The furnace came on last night.
I stood forlornly staring at my would-be fireplace. It isn’t installed yet. In order to install it a gas line needs to be run and someone needs to cut a 12 inch hole in the side of my house. I think this is above my pay scale! The plumber will be by tomorrow to give me an estimate.
Here’s another one. This is the breaker box for my house. It’s loose, too close to cabinets and there is not an outside shut-off. I’m not touching this thing! I’ve been waiting three months for an electrician to find the time to get this job done. I don’t think he wants to touch it either!
But I am confident that when he finally gets around to showing up he will have the expertise to deal with the power line coming in from the street and will pull the wires to the new box without setting my house on fire or killing himself.
There are a few annoying problems with calling a contractor. First is the wait time. They are busy people. Then there is the cost involved. My breaker box is going to cost several thousand dollars to get done. But when you are working on home improvements you need to know your limits. Be sure you are taking the precautions necessary to keep yourself safe while you are working and after you are finished.
Know the Codes.
The National Construction Code books look like a set of encyclopedias. I don’t want to read them! A call to your county building inspector can answer short questions. The inspector’s office will probably also be able to provide you with a list of county codes. I mentioned in an earlier post that homeowners, at least in my county, are exempt from many codes. However, they are important guidelines for safety. For example, when my house was built, the floor joists were spaced 23 inches apart. Currently floor joists are usually about 16 inches apart, although the spacing gets more specific depending on your house plans. I’m pretty sure my 23 inch spacing won’t be enough support to hold my upright grand piano! My gut and the sagging floors were pretty good indicators that I needed to look at the floor before bringing in a very heavy object, but now I know what I need to do in order to update the floors to make them safe.
Workshop Safety Tips
- Use safety glasses. I wear glasses. It would be nice if they were enough, but glasses get covered with dust which then causes scratches when you clean your glasses. Stuff floats in from the sides and gets into your eyes even with the glasses. I have to use this kind of goggle because my glasses fit underneath them. Maybe you are lucky and aren’t blind as a bat. There are a lot of other kinds of safety glasses available. When you purchase a set, make sure that they have side shields. Otherwise they might not look as goofy as goggles but they are not especially effective.
- If the project is dusty, wear a mask. I don’t like wearing masks. They fog up my glasses and they are hot. Learn through my mistakes. A chest and head full of dust leads to a night of coughing and headaches. Even more exciting- after pulling layers of paper off the walls of my little house I found shiny green paint that was at least 50 years old. Yeah- lead based paint! There are always surprises in projects and taking a few extra steps to keep yourself safe is a good idea.
Keep your work area clean. Sawdust is slippery and a cluttered floor turns into a tripping hazard. Make sure that you have a clear workbench. Working around stuff stacked on your bench will increase the likelihood of knocking something onto your foot and, like me, you might have to stop working, hop around practicing colorful adjectives and maybe cry a little. More seriously, catching a cord on an obstruction could deflect a tool toward you or ruin whatever you are working on.
- Use clamps to hold things in place. They act as an extra pair of hands, simplifying your task and preventing you from slipping and hurting yourself or damaging your project.
- Use ladders. I am only five feet tall. The temptation to climb onto a chair or scale a counter-top is always there. Stretching too far to reach something just that tiny bit out of reach is an invitation to a fall. I have ladders that range from a step-stool to a 12 ft ladder that probably weighs more than me! They are stable and make the job easier.
Above all, use common sense. Don’t use the wrong tool just because it’s a pain to walk out to the garage to get the right one. I have had enough bandaged fingers and bruises to tell you it’s worth the extra seconds to do the job right and much more safely.