Why DIY Renovations Might Not Be the Best Idea

Property Jul 8, 2024

4 min read

Not in my backyard-2
Not in my backyard-2

In recent years, home renovation shows like The Block and the rise of social media have sparked a growing trend in do-it-yourself (DIY) renovations. This has given many homeowners the confidence to tackle their property upgrades and believe they can turn a profit by simply rolling up their sleeves and picking up a paint brush. However, the reality of DIY building and renovations is often more complex and potentially hazardous than these glossy portrayals suggest.

The Hidden Dangers of Older Homes

One of the most significant risks in DIY renovations is the potential exposure to hazardous materials, particularly in older homes. Before the 1980s, construction practices widely utilised materials that are now known to be dangerous and at times, these practices were without the oversight and regulation that exists now.

  • Asbestos: This once-common building material was used for its fire-resistant properties in products like insulation, waterproofing, ceiling tiles, and porch eaves. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the health risks of asbestos were fully acknowledged, leading to a gradual phase-out and eventual bans in many countries. Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause serious diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos is often mistaken for plaster board and should not be removed, broken or handled without appropriate safety measures., in all Australian jurisdictions, you are required to have completed asbestos management training in order to handle the materials safely and it’s not something you should ever consider DIY’ing.
  • Lead Paint: Similarly, lead was a prevalent ingredient in paint due to its durability and vibrant colour. It wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that the dangers of lead poisoning, especially to children, became widely recognized. Lead exposure can cause severe health issues, from cognitive impairments in children to kidney and nervous system damage in adults. Exposure during the renovation process can be equally bad for your health, and hard to identify unless you’re a painter or qualified professional.
  • Man-Made Stone: More recently, engineered stone used in countertops has been flagged for its high silica content, which can lead to silicosis, a serious lung disease, when inhaled as dust during cutting or grinding. Again, if you aren’t familiar with the products and processes set out when handling these materials they can be deadly.

The Knowledge Gap

Despite the popularity of DIY renovations, there is a significant gap in education about these hazardous materials. Many novice renovators might not know how to identify or safely handle them, leading to unintentional exposure and health risks. Proper handling of these materials often requires specialised knowledge and equipment that goes beyond the scope of most DIY projects.

Regulatory Considerations

Furthermore, there are strict regulations regarding the removal and disposal of hazardous materials. For instance, asbestos removal must be carried out by licensed professionals, who follow stringent safety protocols to prevent contamination. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in hefty fines and legal liabilities.

Professional Expertise: More Than Just Skills

Hiring professionals to manage renovations is about more than just their ability to install drywall or tile a bathroom. It’s about their expertise in identifying potential hazards and knowing the safest and most effective way to deal with them. Professionals also stay up-to-date with building codes and regulations, ensuring that the renovation is not only safe but also compliant with local laws.

Some final thoughts

While the allure of DIY projects and the promise of saving money or making a profit through property renovations can be tempting, it’s crucial to understand the risks involved. The nostalgic idea that “anyone can get into property or anyone can renovate and make money” often overlooks the critical aspects of material safety and regulatory compliance. Renovating without proper knowledge can expose you and your loved ones to significant health risks and financial burdens.
Furthermore safety standards are rightfully ever increasing for investment properties and annual testing is required to ensure safety standards are met. Often DIY renovations don’t meet the standards due to lack of understanding, quality and experience which can be extremely costly to rectify.

In the end, while there’s a place for DIY in home improvement, recognizing when to call in the professionals is not just about getting a polished finish but ensuring the safety and longevity of your property. Before you pick up that sledgehammer, take a moment to consider what might be lurking behind those walls and whether it’s a job best left to the experts. Maybe it’s a case of ‘pick the colours, don’t be the one to paint them.’