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Save money or save your life?

Home improvement projects can serve two important purposes for most homeowners in California. You can save a great deal of money when you take on do-it-yourself projects, assuming you do not get in over your head and need to hire a contractor to "fix" your mistakes. You also gain the satisfaction of making your home more livable and improving your own enjoyment of "your space."

And even if you hire a contractor to execute some of the more complex elements of your project, you may save yourself some cash by doing some of the simpler, brute force parts of the job. You may remove drywall to expose a stud wall, take up some flooring or take out acoustical tile ceiling. This work may be time consuming, messy and dirty, and by doing it yourself, you can save some money for the skilled trades to finish the job.

However, if your home was build before the early 1990s, you need to consider the risk of asbestos. Asbestos was used in dozens of construction materials, including drywall, pipe and duct insulation, floor and ceiling tile, and roofing shingles.

In many cases, left undisturbed, it poses little risk. But home improvement projects and demolition can expose asbestos-containing materials and may present a real risk, even on short-term projects.

If you cut or drill material made with asbestos, a power saw or drill can aerosolize the asbestos fibers and spew them all over you, the room and any place the air currents may carry them.

A study from Australia found that home renovators were the second largest group of victims of mesothelioma, after those who developed the deadly disease in the workplace.

If you suspect any product in your home may contain asbestos, you should have it tested before you begin work. With asbestos, even a single exposure can prove deadly.

Source:, "Asbestos toxins make DIY risky," Rachel Young, February 18, 2014

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