5 DIY Laws You're Breaking

A man wearing gloves and a dust mask working with insulation in an attic.

Completing projects around the house tends to make homeowners feel productive and also instills a sense of pride and accomplishment. However, an important factor to consider in carrying out a DIY project is the legality of the changes you’re making to your home. There are lots of home improvement projects that have a range of laws around them, many of which avid DIYers are unaware of. Find out below if you’ve been breaking any home improvement laws that you probably didn’t even know were in place.

1. Messing With Old Insulation

Fiddling with or making changes to old insulation could result in breaking laws surrounding asbestos. Although it is possible to remove this toxic substance, it’s very tricky to do without breaking the laws. Old insulation or aged drywall frequently contains asbestos, so this is something to consider when remodeling. Although federal laws do not require those who inspect, repair, or remove asbestos-containing materials in detached single-family homes to be accredited, many states and localities do practice these laws for the safety of homeowners. Instead of conducting this work yourself, refer to your state and local regulations and hire an asbestos abatement team.

2. Interacting With Wildlife

A raccoon on a bird feeder.

It may seem harmless to rid your rafters of a pesky rodent or ward off raccoons that have made dining on your garbage a habit, but doing so could put you at risk of breaking a host of laws. These laws stem from the fact that animals such as raccoons, skunks, and bats are prone to carrying rabies. If you decide to trap and relocate these animals without the help of a professional, you may not only face legal action, but could put yourself at risk of harm and infection from contact with the animal. Instead of risking it, contact a wildlife control company and allow a licensed professional to remove the animals and secure the openings that are allowing them into your space.

3. Knocking Down Walls

The idea of an open floor plan is an alluring one to many homeowners, so knocking down a wall doesn’t seem like a big deal within the four walls of your home, right? Well, doing so could break the law, depending on the permit requirements of your specific city or town. Taking a sledgehammer to an unwanted wall could result in serious issues to the integrity of your home’s structure. That’s why many localities have laws that demand that homeowners enlist in the help of a professional before proceeding with these interior changes. Check the laws and permit requirements in your town before knocking down any walls.

4. Repairing an HVAC System

Someone working on HVAC ductwork.

It may be tempting to repair—or at least to troubleshoot—your HVAC system if problems arise, but it’s a risky one. Many localities have laws surrounding this, stating that homeowners must hire licensed professionals to perform maintenance on air conditioning and home heating systems. This is meant to help homeowners avoid dizziness, asphyxia, and other respiratory problems that could be caused by freon leaks, which are closely associated with HVAC issues.

5. Tinkering With Light Fixtures

Whether it’s a fancy chandelier hanging in your foyer or a light fixture adorning your front door, making changes to these illuminating accessories is likely causing you to break a homeowner’s law. This is because such projects include changes or additions that affect a light fixture’s electrical wiring.

Even if this seems like a straightforward project, it likely requires permits or the help of a professional. Failing to comply with these laws could result in issues with your insurance company in the result of a disaster. Completing these DIY projects yourself may lead to faulty wiring, which is a common cause of residential fires. If you do not follow laws surrounding electrical work and a fire occurs in your home, your insurance company is liable to deny your claim.

Although many of these laws are not one-size-fits-all as determined by different city and state governing agencies, they’re important to research before plowing ahead with a DIY project. What appears to be an easy household project may end up being something dangerous and downright illegal, so understanding the regulations around home improvement projects is endlessly important.