Painting Your Home? Safety Tips for the DIY Crowd.

House painting is one of the most popular DIY projects and for good reason. A quick splash of color is an easy way to give your entire home a facelift. But when painting indoors, steps should be taken to keep you and your family safe. Harmful fumes and dangerous chemicals are known to be in many paints, and can put both humans and animals at risk for illness and injury if proper precautions aren’t taken.

Follow these steps for a fun and safe DIY experience:

Choose Healthier Products

If possible, always choose low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and primers for your DIY pursuits. These products have less harmful fumes than traditional latex paints, and they’re similar in cost to most premium brands.

Test for Lead

If you live in a home built before 1978, there’s a fair chance you have lead-based paint in the house. Buy a test kit at the local hardware store and test a sample before you start sanding. If you find that you have lead paint on your walls, consult with a professional – it can be dangerous to remove it on your own.

Prepare Your Workspace

A well-thought-out workspace can make the difference between a great experience and a terrible one.

  • Keep your work area well ventilated. Fumes can be harmful to inhale, so open the windows and use an exhaust fan.
  • Never use paint, solvents, or strippers near an open flame or other heat sources. Certain chemicals can be highly flammable, so don’t smoke cigarettes, and avoid placing your materials near a working oven or water heater.
  • Use the proper safety equipment – when painting or sanding, use a respirator to stop from inhaling harmful fumes or dust particles.
  • Use a cloth drop cloth rather than plastic – plastic slips more easily and can lead to falls.
  • Cover electrical outlets with painter’s tape, or turn off the power if you need to remove an outlet or switch covers.

Practice Ladder Safety

If your project requires you to climb a ladder, use the following tips to stay safe:

  • Make sure your ladder is in good shape. You should inspect it before every use, no matter how long since you used it last.
  • Don’t try to carry anything up with you. Have someone else hand you your paints and rollers once you’re up on the ladder.
  • Never stand on the top step. If your knees are above the top, you’re too high.
  • Don’t overreach. It may require a little more effort, but get down and move the ladder if you find yourself leaning too far.

Clean up and dispose of paint properly

  • When cleaning up, check your work area for spills, dust, or other debris that could be a falling hazard.
  • Let latex paint dry out completely before disposing of it – one easy trick to speed up the process is to mix a handful of sand or dirt into the can, then let it sit for a week or so with the lid off.
  • While drying your paint, keep the cans in a safe, secure place, away from children and animals.
  • Clean brushes and rollers with a non-toxic solvent. There are plenty of citrus-based or otherwise natural products on the market.
  • If possible, don’t sleep in a freshly painted room for two days. It will help keep you away from harmful odors. 

Painting is a fun project – keep it fun by eliminating any chance of accidents or injury! A little effort before setting out can make all the difference.

The Many Ways We Use Ladders Incorrectly

Despite being one of the most commonly used tools both at home and on the job, ladders will often be used improperly.  Unfortunately, this often leads to injury or even death. According to the American Journal of Preventable Medicine, over 136,000 people head to the hospital every year for ladder-related emergencies – and 10% of those people need to be admitted for extended and costly stays.

Imagine how those numbers would change if everyone just practiced a little common sense when it comes to ladder safety. Next time you’re getting ready to use a ladder, read the manufacturer’s guidelines first – even people who use ladders regularly can use a refresher on occasion.

Here are some handy tips to always keep in mind:

Safety Starts With Your Ladder

Before you do anything else, your ladder needs to be in good working order. Even if you handle it frequently, you should perform a basic inspection before each use. Regrettably, this is something many people often overlook.

Items to look for include:

  • Cracked or broken steps or rungs
  • Loose or missing hinges or hinges that do not lock
  • Rot or decay in wooden ladders
  • Missing or damaged non-slip feet
  • Dirt and debris, including mud, grease, or other slippery substances
  • Wobble (ladders should always stand firm without moving side-to-side)

Always Set Up Your Ladder Properly

A ladder needs to be set up properly to be safe to use. Improper set up is a leading cause of accidental falls and means that many people are not following even the most basic guidelines. In most cases, injury can be easily avoided by following these simple rules:

For stepladders:

  • Make sure rail spreaders are open and locked
  • Place the non-skid ladder feet on level ground
  • If you are working near a door, lock it or otherwise brace it so it can’t be opened
  • Don’t place tools or other obstacles on the ladder

For extension ladders:

  • Keep the ladder feet level (use ladder levelers if necessary)
  • Place the non-skid ladder feet on solid ground – no gravel or other loose debris
  • Make sure the ladder isn’t too close to the edge of the building
  • Extend the ladder at least three feet above whatever surface you’re working on
  • Don’t rest an extension ladder against a tree, pole, or other surfaces where it could rotate
  • Always use the correct angle. As a good rule of thumb, there should be a 75-degree angle between the ladder’s resting point and the base of the wall.

Practice Safe Use

For those who use a ladder frequently, it seems like nothing bad could ever happen. However, being lax and careless is what leads to accidents. Proper usage takes little time or effort and can save a costly trip to the emergency room. Some good general rules are:

  • Always maintain 3 points of contact – either two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot
  • Never overreach or overextend
  • Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on weight limit – every ladder is designed to hold only a specified amount of weight including you AND your equipment
  • Never stand on the top step or rung of the ladder
  • Do not try to move or shift the ladder while you’re standing on it
  • Avoid electrical hazards – always look for nearby wires before climbing

If you can remember just one rule about ladders, let it be this: never take shortcuts! No matter how much time it will save you, or how quickly you need to get the job done, cutting corners is never the answer. A few extra minutes on the job is certainly better than a few months of bedrest!