Archive for the ‘Do It Yourself’ Category

DIY Home Repairs that can land you in the ER

linder6580 (freeimages.com)

linder6580 (freeimages.com)

It may be cheaper to do home maintenance and repairs yourself than to call a professional, but don’t let being economical trump your common sense. Emergency rooms have seen an uptick in do-it-yourself (DIY) injuries as home owners attempt their own repairs—sometimes with disastrous results.

Some of the most common DIY injuries—and how to prevent them…

• Antenna installations. This year, I noticed an increase in patients who had fallen off their roofs. They were trying to save money by giving up cable television and installing rooftop antennas. Instead, they wound up in the emergency room.

Self-defense: Make sure that your ladder is in good shape and set up properly. Use a ladder made of fiberglass or wood if you’re working near power lines. Every year, I see patients who get zapped when a metal ladder touches a power source. In rare cases, people are electrocuted. More often, they’re “sucker punched” by the surprise of the electrical jolt, lose their footing and fall off the ladder.

 Also, protect your hands. Most antennas are fastened to chimneys or other upright supports with metal bands. The bands can have knife-sharp edges. If you don’t wear heavy gloves, you may end up needing a surgeon.

• Gutter cuts. Roof gutters, even those made of vinyl, have extremely sharp edges. So do the guards that fit on top to keep out leaves. Cuts from roof gutters typically are jagged and very dirty—so there’s a high risk for infection.

Self-defense: Always wear sturdy work gloves when repairing or cleaning gutters. If you cut yourself, rinse the cut with running water for at least five minutes to wash out debris and germs.

If the bleeding doesn’t stop within a few minutes, go to the emergency room. These cuts are very painful and can be slow to heal. The doctor will numb the area with lidocaine and clean the wound more thoroughly than you can at home—and medical treatment may reduce scarring.

Important: Never go out in the rain on a ladder or on a wet roof to clean a clogged gutter—you’re much more likely to slip and fall.

• “Welder’s Eye.” The Home Depot and other home-improvement centers sell inexpensive welding gear. People without a lot of training or safety knowledge are doing their own welding.

Main risk: Corneal burn. The ultraviolet light emitted by welding torches can scorch the cornea. You won’t feel the injury right away, but about two or three hours later, you’ll have the most excruciating pain imaginable. Corneal burns usually heal on their own within a few days, but see a doctor as soon as possible.

Self-defense: Put on protective eyewear intended for welders before you light the torch.

• Insulation installation. A lot of people are insulating their basements and attics to save money on heating bills. Insulating walls is relatively easy—injuries usually occur when people are standing on ladders to install ceiling insulation.

Self-defense: Measure and cut the insulation before getting on the ladder. A lot of falls happen when people are standing on a ladder and trying to juggle a tape measure, a utility knife and a staple gun. Wear gloves and protective goggles.

• Hard plastic packaging. Everything from a spark plug to a screwdriver set now is packaged in tough, hard-to-open plastic shells. We see patients all the time in the ER who have sliced themselves with utility knives or even butcher knives while trying to open those things. Also, the sharp plastic edges of the opened container can cut you as deeply as a knife.

Self-defense: Buy heavy scissors or utility shears to open the packaging. And wear gloves. Good: OpenX Dual Blade Universal Package Opener.

• Lawn mower burns. One study reported an average of 74,000 emergency visits for lawn mower injuries annually in the US. Most lawn mower injuries involve flying debris, but muffler burns also are common. And late in the season, people who have been mowing their lawns all summer tend to feel confident in their handling of the machines—sometimes overly confident.

What happens: People decide to repair the mower or change the oil while the machine is hot. Touching the muffler, even for a fraction of a second, can cause a second-degree burn. Also dangerous is filling the gas tank while the machine is hot. Spilled gasoline that vaporizes is highly combustible.

• Lawn tractors. They’re designed not to tip over, but it happens. Manufacturers include safety mechanisms that stop the blades if the machine tips, but the blades don’t stop instantly. I’ve seen patients who lost fingers or toes when the machines they were riding tipped over.

Self-defense: Study the instruction manual thoroughly. No one should get on a lawn tractor without knowing exactly what he’s doing. Nor should children or pets ride with you. Also important: Know where the cutting blades are located. Different models have different blade configurations. I have a picture of a dog that now has only three legs because his owner didn’t realize the dog was in the danger zone.

DIY SAFETY

• Position a ladder correctly. The ladder should be at a 75° angle from the ground or floor. That means about one foot between the bottom of the wall and the base of the ladder for every four feet of ladder height.

Also: Reposition your ladder rather than lean or reach far to one side. Be especially sure that your ladder is secure if you will be doing repetitive work that could rock the ladder.

If you use your ladder to climb onto a roof: The top of the ladder should extend at least three feet beyond the roof’s edge. You don’t want to have to stand on the ladder’s top two rungs, because you will be too close to the wall to maintain your balance.

• Protect your hands. Every home owner should own one or two pairs of heavy cloth or leather gloves.

Helpful: Hand injuries that occur during home repairs often involve the nondominant hand. We would see fewer patients in the ER if, for example, right-handed people would keep their left hands out of the way when using power tools.

• Wear special protective eyewear whenever you’re using a tool that could send debris into your eye.

Read the manual. Know how your tools work before plugging them in.

Never work in a risky location when you’re alone. If you’re on the roof or in a difficult-to-negotiate attic, you could fall, get seriously injured and need someone to help. At the very least, carry a charged cell phone in your pocket or clipped to a belt so that it isn’t likely to fall out of reach in case you need to call for help.

Turn off the main power when working with electricity. Don’t just turn off a switch—someone could flip it on when you aren’t looking.

Wear appropriate footwear, such as boots or sneakers. No sandals.

Source: Richard O’Brien, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton. He is also a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, Washington, DC.

DIY Fixes for Laptops, Tablets and Cell Phones

brokeputer-300x249Portable electronic devices are convenient…but they are prone to mishaps and other frustrating problems. Smartphones and computer tablets often are dropped, dunked or crushed. Built-in screens and keyboards can develop problems seemingly out of nowhere. All of these ­devices rely on batteries that will inevitably lose their ability to hold a charge.DIY Fixes for Laptops, Tablets and Cell Phones

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How to Fix a Broken Light Bulb

hidmari (sxc.hu)

hidmari (sxc.hu)

Cards on the table:  I am cheap.

My latest adventure in cheapness involves light bulbs, specifically the old school incandescent kind. The kind invented by Thomas Alva Edison. The kind that government put the kibosh on as of January 1, 2014 under the Energy Independence and Security Act.

There’s been a lot of partisan anger about the new energy-efficient light bulb mandates. Personally, I’m not an incandescent bulb hoarder.

Nor am I opposed to CFLs or LEDs. My home has roughly 75% LEDs, 25% CFLs, and 5% incandescents.

But as I said, I am cheap.

I know it’s been said the true cost of a bulb is not the purchase price, but the cost of the energy it burns over time. While I do agree with that statement, sometimes it makes more financial sense to extend the life of a traditional bulb.

Here’s my rationale: Continue reading

Jewelry Repairs You Can Do Yourself

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ljk (sxc.hu)

Jewelry repairs can cost anywhere from $20 to hundreds of dollars, but there are certain repairs you can perform safely on your own. Three jewelry tasks to try—and three never to try…

Home Repairs You Must Fix Now

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cajunbaby (sxc.hu)

…… and those that can wait.

Houses sometimes develop problems in bunches, and there isn’t always enough money or time to tackle all the needed repairs at once. Here’s how to decide which projects must take priority… Continue reading

Do It Yourself Dry Cleaning

English: Many dry cleaners place cleaned cloth...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Tricks to Save on Dry Cleaning

Having a garment dry-cleaned can cost anywhere from a few dollars to $20 or more, depending on the garment and your region. Here’s how to greatly reduce dry-cleaning costs…

IS IT REALLY “DRY CLEAN ONLY”?

Dry cleaning is truly required only if… Continue reading

Appliance Repairs You Can Do

  • Appliance Repairs Anyone Can Do—Simple Steps Save $$$

Appliance repair people often charge $80 to $150 just to walk in your front door…and the average repair bill is well into the hundreds.

Sometimes this can’t be avoided—appliances have become extremely complex, putting many repairs outside the abilities of even handy home owners. But there are exceptions.

Five appliance problems that many home owners can tackle themselves, saving hundreds of dollars in the process… Continue reading