The first rule of home ownership is that you are perpetually unprepared for just how expensive it is. Even after years of dealing with the slow-motion collapse of your most valuable asset, you can still be amazed at the sheer scale of a repair bill — so it’s no surprise that many folks head off to YouTube University to try their hand at DIY home repairs and renovations. The money you can save by doing things yourself can be substantial.
We tend to think of DIY home repair failures in terms of aesthetics or function — crooked tile or a roof that keeps leaking despite our best efforts. But doing things yourself when you lack expertise and experience can sometimes lead to something worse than an unsightly, janky result: It can lead to severe injury or even death. Here are the home repairs that might kill you.
It’s easy to assume that when an appliance is unplugged it’s inert and perfectly safe, but many electric appliances have a capacitor in them that holds a high charge for a long time. You can unplug a microwave, store it unplugged for months, and it can still hold enough voltage to kill you effectively. If your microwave has stopped working and you think you might be able to open it up and fix it yourself, stop: You can definitely be killed. It’s time to either just buy a new one or hire a licensed professional to try to fix it.
Gas and electric
Whether installing a new gas range or trying to figure out why a lighting fixture keeps flickering, working with gas lines or electricity in your house when you’re not a licensed electrician or plumber is a bad idea. Even if you manage to avoid electrocuting yourself or setting yourself on fire in the moment, gas leaks can (and will) slowly murder you in your sleep and janky DIY wiring can (and will) burn your house down (also probably while you’re sleeping).
Your roof is vexing because it fails in mysterious ways — trying to pinpoint a leak in a roof is usually an exercise in futility. That’s why most people choose to call a professional roofer when the roof shows signs of failure — but that can be expensive. So many people break out a rickety old ladder and head up there themselves, despite the fact that falling off a roof is one of the main causes of death among professional roofers. If the pros find being on your roof a deadly experience, you should definitely not be up there unless you take serious precautions.
Demoing a wall
A lot of people choose to do the demolition part of a home renovation themselves because it seems like an easy way to save some money. Sure, demo is hard work, but destroying stuff doesn’t seem like it requires a whole lot of skill or experience. And that’s true, to an extent — but if your demo plan involves removing a wall to “open up” a space, make sure you understand how to identify a load-bearing wall before you start. Knocking down a load-bearing wall can bring the entire house down on your head, which will not only end your renovation — it’ll likely end your life.
If your garage door breaks, it might seem like an easy repair job — or at least worth taking a look to see if you can DIY the problem. Garage doors are extremely heavy, but are typically very easy to lift — that’s because of torsion springs that provide lifting force, assisting with the operation of the door. If one of those springs breaks, you can’t just pop it out and replace it — the whole operation requires specific tools and knowledge of how to unwind the springs safely. Using improvised tools to get this done can result in a pretty dramatic and explosive unwinding of the spring that sends your tools and bits of metal flying like shrapnel, potentially hurting you severely, or even killing you.
There’s a solid piece of advice for anyone who wakes up with a desire to clean their bathroom: Always flush the toilet before you put any sort of cleaning product in there. That’s because even small amounts of different cleaning products can cause a deadly chemical reaction when combined. Combining bleach with cleaning products containing ammonia, for example, can produce a poison gas called chloramine that can kill you if you can’t get away from it fast enough.
Using a generator
If you have a robust gas-powered generator, you might have heard that you can purchase a male-to-male extension cord that will allow you to plug your generator into one of your home’s electrical outlets during a power outage. The electricity created by your generator will flow through your home’s wiring, allowing you to power your house as if you had a transfer switch installed. This…kind of works, yes, but it’s also incredibly dangerous, with potential outcomes including the explosive demolition of your generator, the fiery destruction of your house, and your own horrifying death. There is a reason these are often called “suicide cords.”
Building a deck
Adding a deck to your outdoor space is a great idea, but if you’re inexperienced with construction and perhaps not the greatest carpenter, you should think twice — especially if you’re also skipping the permitting and inspection process. A deck that seems perfectly stable under light use can easily collapse when you suddenly put several people on it — or simply collapse of its own volition at some random moment when the magical combination of friction, luck, and a single rusting screw that’s been keeping it off the ground suddenly gives out. Hire a professional unless you really know what you’re doing.
Keeping your house updated and in good working order is sometimes expensive and sometimes requires a lot of sweat equity. Knowing when you’re putting yourself in danger is crucial to deciding which approach to choose.