Home Improvement Rule Book

By Katie Bower, Bower Power 

We are big fans of doing it yourself. Why? Because when you tackle your own home improvement projects, you save labor costs, get the satisfaction of bragging to your friends about your pure awesomeness and don’t need to wait on any hired help (especially when it comes to things like a broken toilet that you need NOW (if you know what I mean).

But with all those pros, there is a major con…what about safety? How can you keep your house and family safe from the potential dangers of doing it wrong? Like the danger of a potential fire?  Is there a way to still save money but ensure that it’s getting done right? And when do you pull the DIYing plug and know your limits (aka not set your house inadvertently ablaze)? Well, here are some of our family’s DIY guidelines when it comes to fire safety and still maintain our title of DIYers…    


Two main areas in your home can start fires…electrical stuff and gas stuff. And there are a lot of resources, books, sites, forums and blogs that can help educate you before you start a project. Go to the library. Check out the book section at your local hardware store. Read them.  Ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to sound like the fool.  And get to know other tradespeople and DIYers. Befriend a licensed electrician or a master plumber. And invest in the right prevention and fix it tools. One of our favorite tools for electrical work is under twenty bucks…it’s a non contact voltage tester…just to tell us whether or not a wire is still on!  


It’s easy to say blanket statements like “electrical work is too hard for me” and “I don’t do that”…but really, there are many easy projects anyone can tackle without burning down the house. Take for example switching out a light fixture or an electrical outlet. Both are easy DIY basics that deal with electrical work. Of course, it’s in your best interest to always have that buddy electrician check your work and to always make sure you are abiding to code (unlike the situation above we found in our wall – wires without a box surrounded by insulation is a big time no-no!).  And if something is beyond you…it’s okay to say so…


Old wiring and faulty electrical outlets cause most electrical fires. Other home electrical fires can be caused because of problems with cords, plugs, receptacles, and switches. Oh and you can’t forget light fixtures, lamps, light bulbs. A lot to think about. But really – what is avoidable? Here is some stuff to avoid…

  • Upgrade your fuse boxes to circuit breaker boxes
  • Don’t replace a 15-amp fuse with a high amp fuse.
  • Never insert a coin where a blown fuse once was
  • Don’t overload circuits
  • Use GFCI outlets near water sources such as sinks and
  • Check & maintain cords
  • Don’t run lamp cords under rugs or in high traffic areas
  • Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring
  • Replace all frayed, old or damaged appliance cords immediately
  • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen
  • Keep clothes, curtains, and other potentially combustible items at least three feet from all heaters
  • Put three-prong plugs only in a three-slot outlet
  • Never overload extension cords or wall sockets
  • Immediately shut off, then replace, light switches that are hot to the touch or lights that flicker


Gas operated appliances can be a big part of any home. We had installed a gas fireplace in our first house and I broke into a cold sweat every single time I thought about a cold night and a crackling fire. Why the nervousness?  I had no idea even how to detect a gas leak…much less fix one. And it only takes one little leak to start a fire…so again – have a friend or a pro check your installation. And here’s a big warning for you gas dryer folks out there…them suckers are dangerous if you fail to maintain or properly clean them regularly. With all your gas or high powered appliances, it is really helpful to create a calendar with notes on when and how to properly care for them and know the warning signs of a gas leak…here’s one: it’ll smell like rotten eggs. You can also install the 2-in-1 Carbon Monoxide and Natural Gas Detector on every floor of the home to catch any leaks.


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