home Insurance Article

3 Major DIY Mistakes That Can Affect Insurance

As people continue to struggle in times that are economically difficult for many, one thing people have been trying to do is complete things on their own at home instead of seeking the services of professionals. One of the main ways to save money is to ‘DIY,’ and television shows have reinforced this idea over the last few years.

However, DIY shows and the DIY concept are often much more complicated than they appear on HGTV and in magazines. In hour long segments, it can seem as though DIY projects are wrapped up quickly, cheaply, and without hassle. But they’re not necessarily true representations of DIY projects, and there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Unfortunately, many people who have caught the DIY bug are faced with some harsh realities when they set out to do it themselves, and although it’s great to learn from mistakes, some of the mistakes many DIY novices make can end up extremely costly in the end, whether it’s because the costs and time involved end up not being as practical as they planned or if extra costs arise due to DIY jobs resulting in damage to homes and ultimately leading to serious homeowners insurance claims. The tiniest mistake could result in losing far more money than what it would have cost to hire a professional to begin with.

Before you jump on the DIY bandwagon, make sure you know exactly what the most common mistakes are and how to avoid them—that way, you may not have to deal with costly repercussions later on that are devastating and costly. Unfortunately, the very first lesson many people learn the hard way is that DIY projects often end up taking way more time than anticipated and can also end up costing much more than planned. Consider the following common DIY mistakes before you begin any new projects so that you don’t have to learn from mistakes the hard way.

1.) Failing to get the right permits—or any permits at all.

Contrary to popular belief, permits aren’t just a way for your city or county government to make more money. Instead, they carry several important purposes, but unfortunately many think they can just bypass permits altogether.

One of the reasons permits are required for DIY home projects is simply to provide protection to whomever acquires the permit and to make sure the person doesn’t hurt themselves. They also ensure that you’re not doing anything that results in breaking any kind of codes or laws—things that can end up costing way more than any permit.

Additionally, permits are required so your local city and state would know who to place liability on if something resulted in some kind of loss, either by the city or by neighbors who could be affected. For example, if a storm tears off an electricity box from a home and needs to be replaced by the power company in order to restore power, most states require the homeowner not only gets a permit to have a new one added, but also require that a licensed contractor complete the work before an electricity company will touch anything.

The reason is simple—that box would eventually connect with the rest of the neighborhood’s power lines, so if something were to happen, the city would want to know who had recently made changes so that liability is shifted from the city and power company to the homeowner. In essence, it’s a way for the city to keep track of who’s doing what so that there’s always a trail of breadcrumbs leading back to whoever made such significant changes.

Similarly, doing DIY jobs like updating plumbing or electrical work incorrectly will lead to denied homeowner insurance claims too—an electrical fire or water damage due to mistakes can occur easily if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. If something like a fire consumed your whole home and your insurer found you hadn’t sought the service of an expert, imagine the loss you’d suffer if that claim was denied. That’s an expensive mistake worth thousands upon thousands—and no electrician charges $200K to update wiring. In comparison, their prices seem like a bargain.

Equally as important, permits are usually going to be required by a homeowner’s insurance company. For example, if you install a wood stove but fail to get a permit and have a licensed contractor complete the work, your insurer would automatically deny any resulting claims 99% of the time. Without a permit and licensed contractor, the insurer considers that the homeowner is being negligent, and insurers never pay out claims resulting from negligence. When making a significant change that heightens the risk of claims, homeowners want to protect themselves from having to pay out costly losses that could have been avoided. Failure to get a permit may not just result in a denied claim but could quickly lead to cancelled policies and possibly even insurance fraud charges for failing to disclose the addition of something like that.

The best rule of thumb to follow with permits—for any job requiring more than painting walls or hanging wallpaper, ask your city if one is required.

2.) Working in an unsafe environment

If you’re not familiar with the type of repair, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. Whether you’re working in a new environment–like a crawlspace–or prepared for possible risks while work is being completed, you could end up causing extreme injury to yourself or others. Professionals know what safety routines to follow and are familiar with following protocol to be safe, and are well aware of ALL possible risks.

Consider this—according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 164K people a year go the emergency room from ladder accidents alone. Add in other safety hazards like failing to wear protective equipment like hardhats, safety goggles, or failing to protect yourself from fumes of paints and varnishes, and you’re basically asking for something to go wrong.

ANY home improvement project carries risks, and by not being used to looking for them, you’ll miss more than you know—even if you do make it out unscathed. This can affect more than your homeowners insurance—such as if someone in your home is injured by the working environment, resulting in a large claim or even lawsuit since you’re liable for any accidents occurring in your home—it can also greatly affect your health insurance premiums if you’re injured in some way, resulting in chronic problems, not to mention the exorbitant medical bills and future premiums you’d pay as a result. Suffer a life threatening injury or end up with a permanent injury, you’re also looking at higher life insurance premiums because of the risks you present.

3.) Measuring Once

Any professional DIY-er knows this rule of thumb—measure twice, cut once. This may seem pretty unimportant if you’ve taken up sewing, but when it comes to serious things like hanging drywall, putting in walls, floors, cabinets, or pipes, you could be the architect of your misfortune and loss. Not only should you err on the side of caution of measuring something, you should err on the side of ‘long.’ It’s much easier to make something shorter a little at a time than to make something longer. Quick ‘fix-its’ like spackle will only give you an 1/8 of inch seam to cover an error. Being accurate is especially important if you’ve failed to plan or measure something essential like a load bearing wall or modifications to your roof—one of those things fail and you’re looking at an astronomical homeowners insurance claim, or worse yet, a life insurance claim for you or someone else.

It can be incredibly fun to take on DIY projects, but to be safe, you should research your planned projects carefully, perhaps even trying to shadow with a professional before starting. We can’t all be Bob Villa and we’re not all qualified to have a show on HGTV. It’s often better to stick with what you know, make extensive preparations, and go by the book—it could be the difference between losing your home, your health, or even your life.

Follow Desiree on Twitter @DesireeBaughman.