12 Home Improvement Shortcuts That Are a Bad Idea

Measuring twice is still a thing.

Doing a little home improvement on your own can be a greatway to cut costs on a project. But you can find yourself having to do a projectover again or in the middle of a dangerous situation if you don’t have a firmgrasp of what you’re doing – no matter how many YouTube videosyou’ve watched. Home inspection and contracting professionals weigh in on someof the most common do-it-yourself hacks that are a major don’t.

Skipping the permits

Permit regulations vary depending on your location, but theyare often required when conducting plumbing, electrical, heating or air work toensure a home is safe. There will be an extra cost, but it’sworth the price over getting caught doing the work without a permit, or farworse, doing the work wrong. “The permits are there to enforce minimum qualitystandards,” says Michael Flanagan, heating, ventilation and air conditioning manager for Michael & Son Services inRichmond, Virginia.

Leaving wires exposed

Leaving wires exposed is an obvious no-no,but they also need to be covered properly when they’re hidden. Frank Lesh, theexecutive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors, says inspectors commonly find exposed wires in suspended ceilings of recentlyfinished basements. “It’s not that someone’s going to touch it, but mice areeverywhere … and they start gnawing on the electrical wire and insulation,” he points out. “Andif there’s no cover on [the wire] … it could rub up against metal and short-circuit.”

Any electrical fix

Attempts at adding circuits or overloading circuits caneasily cause you to blow a fuse. Dave Geradine, owner of Expert Home Repairs inHollywood, Florida, says electrical work is particularly sensitive because aconnection could work a number of ways, but its flaws may not be apparent untilit’s too late. “If you don’t make your connections properly, you can have … anelectrical fire caused by an arcing of the two wires that aren’t tightlyconnected,” Geradine says.

Closing vents to focus heat on another part of the house

Winter is coming, and parts of your house may feel it morethan others. You may be tempted to close the vents in one room to send morewarm air to other parts of the house, but Flanagan says that’s a bad idea.“While you can close some vents to force more air to this part of the house andthat part of the house, you’re destroying your efficiency and you’re certainlyshortening the life of the equipment,” he says.

Squeezing space heaters into tiny spots

Electric space heaters are another way to heat up those colder rooms, but be careful where you put them. Lesh says people often push up space heaters against curtains or place them in otherareas where they become a fire hazard. Jury-rigginga space heater to sit above a baby’s crib is a definite don’t. “A truck could go by or an airplane, and this littleheater on the shelf could fall into the crib and start a fire,” Lesh says.

Putting new flooring on top of old material

Replacing a floor is a great way to make a room feel newagain, but you should always remove old material, such as tile or linoleum, before putting newflooring on top. Otherwise, you could find yourself with an uneven surface, andyou’ll have to replace it yet again. “You always want to go down to the barewood or concrete surface when you do new flooring,” Geradine says. If you don’t? “What’s underneath your new flooring fails, [and] then your tile comes up,” he says.

Using the wrong replacement pipe

Finding the right pipe to match a section of plumbing thatneeds replacement can be tricky and expensive. Aside from leaks, which arepossible with ill-fitting pipes, Lesh says you can easily raise a newbunch of issues without even realizing it. For one, replacing a portion of copper orsteel pipe for a water heater with a plastic option can spell outdanger. “If your electrical system is using the plumbing pipesfor grounding, there has to be a circuit there,” he explains. “If you replace one of the waterpipes with something that’s not conductive like steel or copper … then you no longer have that ground. And then the housecould be ungrounded, so that could be a fire or safety hazard.”

Using standard outlets near a sink or tub

If you don’t already know that water and electricity don’tmix, put the drill down. When remodeling a bathroom or kitchen, be sure to useoutlets that include a ground-fault circuit interrupter for any areas near water.In the event an appliance that’s plugged in falls into water, the GFCIwill trip the electricity so it cuts off, Lesh says. Otherwise, “if you have aconventional receptacle, then you could get electrocuted.”

Using all-purpose glues or tapes.

Sadly, duct tape is not an effective go-to tool, and mostlikely neither are those fancy tapes and glues you’ve seen on infomercials. “Thosespray-on glues and the tape that stops the leak in the water pipe you see on TVdoes not work,” Flanagan says. When it comes to taping or gluing somethingtogether, there’s typically an adhesive specific to the need that is mosteffective and least likely to cause problems down the line. For example, Flanagansays heating and air professionals use foil tape.

Fastening a deck to a home with nails

The more people a structure is expected to hold, the biggerthe bolt should be to hold the structure in place, especially when adding a newdeck onto your home. Lesh says home inspectors frequently see decks attached tohomes with nails, when the project requires specific bolts to secure thestructure. “Every year a deck collapses because a guy just used awhole bunch of nails to attach it to the house,” he says.

Painting over chipped paint or wallpaper

While you may think a couple coats of paint could have anywall looking brand new, it’s important to make the surface smooth and cleanfirst, particularly if you’re looking to get rid of old wallpaper orchipped paint. “Paint will moisten the wallpaper and then make it bubble. Andthen you have to cut out all the bubble spots and fill them with jointcompound,” Geradine says. Ultimately, you’ll have to remove the wallpaperanyway, and it’s far easier to take off without paint over it.

Replacing pipes in old homes without checking

Many older homes could use a bit of TLC, but be wary of thedangers that could be lurking beneath the surface. There is a chance that oldplumbing could contain asbestos, which isn’t something you want to letin the air. “There could be hazardous material in there, and that is nothingto play around with,” Lesh says. “You can’t just wear a dust mask and take that stuff off –the fibers are microscopic and you can really, really injure yourself long termif you touch that kind of stuff.”He adds that you should seek a professional with noted experiencehandling hazardous materials to ensure particles aren’t left in the air towreak havoc over time.

When in doubt, call a pro.

You can be handy with tools and still need to submit to aprofessional’s help sometimes. If you’re unsure of the dangers of a project,contacting someone who does know will make it far less likely that you’ll turnyour home into a death trap.“With the trades – plumbing, heating, air and electrical –there may be five ways to do it right, but there’s a thousand ways to do itwrong,” Flanagan says. “And people tend to find those thousand ways before theyfind the five ways. So if you’re just not confident and competent in whatyou’re doing, you should just call a professional.”

Devon Thorsby

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