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Originally published Friday, August 23, 2013 at 8:06 PM

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Summer is DIY season, learn to do it safely

DIY started to heat up during the recession as fewer homeowners could afford to hire professional help. Now, it’s become a national pastime and a source of pride as people stay longer in their houses.

Sacramento Bee

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So many projects, so little time. When summer arrives, so does DIY season.

Reinvigorated by warm weather, we do-it-yourselfers want to get outdoors and tackle all those to-do lists we’ve been avoiding. Or maybe it’s something indoors (and air-conditioned) that’s moved to the top of our agenda.

“One of the major trends we’re seeing (for 2013) is the rebirth of DIY,” said Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware’s national DIY expert and home-improvement contributor on NBC’s “The Today Show.” “We’ve been flooded by more people wanting advice.”

DIY started to heat up during the recession as fewer homeowners could afford to hire professional help. Now, it’s become a national pastime and a source of pride as people stay longer in their houses.

“We’ve seen this trend in all age groups,” Manfredini noted during a recent visit to Sacramento, Calif. “But one difference: Homeowners are looking for easier ways to do things. It’s a trend — not a fad.”

That’s led to more two-in-one or “easy” products such as paint with built-in primer and snap-on fertilizer spreaders.

As a major part of DIY, painting season is in full swing. Expect to see more options in home-improvement stores, including more ways to make color choices.

“You’ll see more primer-paint combinations at value prices,” said Manfredini, who uses the new Clark & Kensington line.

Paint is the easiest and fastest way to update a room; a new spot of color can make the whole house look fresh.

“If you want to add some pizazz to the front of your home, consider repainting the front door,” Manfredini said. “With a little sanding, priming and a new coat of paint in a color — think anything but white — you can change the entire look of your home.

“The most difficult thing about painting — choosing color,” Manfredini added. “That’s why 50 percent of all paint sold in America is white and another 25 percent is a version of white. People are afraid of color.”

Several manufacturers have introduced new ways to pick paint. For example, Kelly-Moore recently rolled out its Color Studio Collection with more than 1,700 new hues.

Take advantage of free “color counseling,” said Debbie Zimmer of the Paint Quality Institute. “Paint stores and websites offer ‘interactive color visualizers’ that upload pictures of your room. With a few keystrokes and mouse clicks, you can apply different color schemes to your virtual walls until you find the one you like best.”

Don’t be afraid of combining colors, she added. “This season’s hottest makeover trend calls for multicolor paint schemes using three, four or even five accent colors in a single room.”

In fabrics, bright and stripes are hot. Neon pinks, greens and blues scream summer — especially outdoors.

Indoors, summery whites and beachy-blue hues bring in coolness.

“Darker colors retain more heat no matter the fabric,” said Carie Doll of Anna’s Linens. “Light colors will keep you cooler and will give your room an overall lighter look.”

For summer decorating, Doll suggests dual-purpose makeovers such as curtains or blinds that help save energy.

“Energy-efficient window treatments block out 99.9 percent of sunlight and insulate against heat, keeping your home cool,” she said. “A cooler home means lower summer energy costs. They also block the cold in the winter, making them ideal all year-round.”

New products also opened up new DIY categories.

“Lighting is a huge trend now,” Manfredini said. “The phaseout of the incandescent bulb has forced manufacturers to double up efforts to make more acceptable alternatives.”

That includes LED fixtures that can be installed by DIYers.

“You’ll see more and more options as prices keep coming down,” Manfredini added.

Among the hot sellers this summer is do-it-yourself automated home technology such as Wi-Fi- enabled programmable thermostats. (Manfredini likes Honeywell’s touch-screen model for under $150.) Also popular are home security cameras and systems that hook up to Wi-Fi and allow long-distance monitoring via Internet.

“You just plug in the cameras; no wiring,” Manfredini said. “A lot of this stuff used to be only for professionals. More and more is coming for consumers. (Home-improvement centers) are adding to it every day.”

Here’s a little tech-minded fix that can solve big problems: an electrical outlet that also provides USB receptacles for charging portable devices.

“Leviton makes one for under $25,” Manfredini said. “It’s a wonderful addition to the kitchen. It’s another way the industry is adapting to how we’re living our lives.”

Expect to see more women in home-improvement aisles, too.

“Women have always driven home-improvement (sales),” Manfredini said. “The Internet is a huge driver; you can watch a video on any topic. That inspiration is instantaneous — not only for do-it-yourselfers, but for professional contractors, too. You find information and the confidence to do it — maybe with a little bit of help.”

Wherever, the job will go smoother (and saner) with some preparation. Tools and tasks can be dangerous. Remember: Better safe than sorry.

“Smart preparation can make all the difference when you’re taking on outdoor projects this season,” Manfredini said. “Whether you’re doing routine tasks like mowing the lawn and using a weed trimmer or spreading fertilizer, it’s important to protect yourself with the proper safety gear.”

Fear of injury keeps many would-be DIYers from doing some things themselves. According to a new survey by safety-equipment maker 3M TEKK Protection, almost 60 percent of DIYers are concerned about getting injured while working on a home-improvement project.

But three out of every four DIYers admit they’ve skipped wearing protective gear, said the survey. About half of those said they didn’t wear all the protective gear because they were confident they would be safe without it.

Yet, 36 percent of DIYers surveyed said they were injured or suffered a side effect while working on a home-improvement project in just the last year. Four out of five were not wearing the proper protective gear.

Manfredini’s recommendation: Remember the basics. Protect your hands with proper gloves. Protect your eyes with safety lenses. Wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants and closed-toe shoes.

Don’t forget your ears. Power tools and equipment are hard on hearing. Get some inexpensive soft foam earplugs or higher-quality earmuffs.

Some jobs — such as refinishing furniture — involve dangerous fumes. A respirator or breathing mask can prevent irritation — or worse.

Even if you think you’ve done everything on your list, there’s always more.

“A good house is never done,” Manfredini said. “You’re always trying to make it better. It’s a lifelong process.”

Manfredini offers this advice to keep do-it-yourselfers safe:

Lawn safety: Before you mow your lawn, take time to walk the yard quickly to inspect for items that may be lying on the ground. “Sticks and stones can break your bones — particularly if the blade of the mower picks it up and throws it at high speed from under the mower’s deck,” Manfredini said.

Protect your eyes: The blades of a power mower and strings of a weed trimmer can hurl objects such as rocks and twigs at high speeds, turning them into dangerous projectiles. Protect your eyes with safety eyewear.

“No matter what project you are doing outside, wearing eye protection is a must,” Manfredini said.

Help your hands: There is nothing better than digging in the dirt, but for most of us, it’s a great way to tear up our hands, Manfredini said. A good pair of gloves that fit well will give you added protection and help keep you working longer in the garden.

For thorny projects (such as rose or berry bushes), look for goat-leather gloves; the prickles can’t penetrate.

Remember your ears: Lawn and garden power tools make your outdoor chores go much more quickly. But the noise they make can harm your hearing even if you are only exposed for a short time, Manfredini said. Make sure you wear ear protection. It comes in many varieties, from disposable foam ear plugs to high-quality earmuffs — even ones that will play music while you work. (Manfredini uses the 3M TEKK Protection WorkTunes hearing protector.)

Breathe easier: Some projects can be harmful to your respiratory system — particularly if they involve chemicals, dust or mold. Use breathing protection such as a mask or respirator; offers instructional safety videos and product suggestions online.


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