Every year we are called out to a couple of rescue jobs where good intentions and poor DIY skills have come unstuck.
There are usually a range of tasks which are undertaken without understanding the consequences of a particular action or actions which can lead to a major structural failure or even the death of the people working on the property.
These Five are what I consider to be the most dangerous tasks to undertake on a building refurbishment.
1, Demolition by hand
3, Removing large wooden or concrete beams holding up the first floor
4, Making a window in a stone wall
5, Building a roof
1, Demolition by hand – This can kill untrained and inexperienced people very quickly.
Everyone working in our teams will have a near escape story from their past working experience. It is certainly not a task that you can learn by your mistakes.
NB: everything in the structure of a home is heavy and if it hits you or leans against you there is only one winner. Get expert help.
2, Excavation- Is something that everyone can do you don’t even need a mini digger you can just take your time and use a spade. The light sandy soils of central Portugal are easy to work and you can get quite a lot of satisfaction from the work. If you are going to be digging above the height of your knees you must take real precautions to stop the earth falling in and crushing you. It’s not like a few inches of sand on top of you at the beach that you can shake off what I am talking about is a trench wall falling in and trapping you by the legs. The massive pressure that occurs on your body and heart can make you pass out very quickly and if it doesn’t kill you may have lasting effects that you may never recover from.
3, Removing large wooden or concrete beams holding up the first floor – you can gauge by the size of them that they are heavy so you would obviously “take care”. Do you have a plan of how to lower the beams to the ground without using human muscle power. If you were going to do it with some friends then you obviously have gauged the weight wrong.
The other thing that you won’t have considered is that the beam may look old and knackered but it could (probably will be) under immense compressive or tension. When this is released it can cause large areas of wall to collapse. Also if the joist or beam is not taken out evenly it may act a cantilever and bring the wall above it crashing down.
Get expert help.
4, Making a window in a stone wall- Apart from usually waving to work off scaffolding to carry out the work you really have to understand what areas of the wall you can and cannot take out. Unfortunately only experience can tell you that. When you start taking out the stones or bricks to make the window hole how are you going to support the wall and roof above while still being able to remove material. The biggest danger here is from falling masonry. It falls so fast that there is no way you can avoid it and its usually your head that is in the hole while you are working. Wear a hard hat that’s tied on and never work alone.
Get expert help.
5, Building a roof – This really is a no brainer. You’re working at height, off a scaffolding or a perimeter wall and moving heavy materials by hand all of which is going to try to get you on to the ground quicker than you had hoped !