NOT Home for the Holidays
November and December are traditionally among the busiest of months for travel, primarily due to holiday gatherings in far away places. In addition, retirees find themselves seeking a warmer climate to ease their aching bones. In either case, whether leaving your home for a long Thanksgiving weekend or for an extended season of sunshine, there are steps that you can take that will minimize the risk of damage to hour home when your not there.
All those little hoses and lines — in the kitchen, bathroom, or utility room — that bring water to your sinks, toilet, and washing machine are also potential floods in the rooms they serve. They create a messy problem if they break while you’re at home. They spell disaster if you’re out for the day and a catastrophe if you’re gone for weeks — or months!
Turn off the water supply valves to each water-fueled fixture in the home. This provides iron-clad flood insurance (at least for these items) for as long as you intend to be away — up to and including a year long around the world cruise.
Check the rubber hoses leading to your washing machine periodically and especially before leaving on a trip. If they feel brittle, it’s time for replacement. Never thought about it, you say? We guarantee you will — one day, when they burst, and they surely will, sooner or later. Even when you’re home, one should always keep these hoses fresh to prevent problems. You can reduce risk even further by upgrading hoses with an outer covering of braided stainless steel.
The same thinking goes for the small water leads to your kitchen and bathroom sinks and toilets. Over a period of time, these small lines (often only lightweight metals) can corrode due to natural electrolysis and may develop pin-hole sized leaks that can wet down a room in minutes. If this happens at your house, want to bet when that will be? We’re guessing that it’s while you’re away in Hawaii for a few weeks. Obviously, these water leads need frequent inspection to spot potential problems — and like their washing machine cousins, they too can be easily and inexpensively replaced or upgraded (again with stainless steel braid covered lines) for greater peace of mind.
• If it uses water, turn off the supply.
• If it uses electricity, unplug it.
• If it uses energy, turn it down, turn it up or turn it off.
• If it burns fuel, remove the ignition source.
• Turn down the furnace — or turn up the air conditioner thermostat.
• Lower the water heater temperature setting.
• Turn off all washing machine water hoses and sink/toilet water leads.
• Unplug all electronics and appliances. Resetting clocks is easier than replacement or a possible malfunction that results in a fire.
Think a burst pipe can cause chaos? Try having your home broken into while you are away. According to law enforcement statistics, over 50 percent of all break-ins are simply crimes of opportunity. These are situations where intruders are virtually invited in by unlocked windows and doors.
Beyond being issuing an open invitation to intruders by leaving things unlocked, some homeowners often make things even more inviting by providing shrubbery to conceal actions and the cover of darkness to work within. These homeowners should be listed as accomplices to the crimes that befall their homes since they do everything possible to assist in the crime.
In contrast, a few simple guidelines can make your home as tight as the proverbial bug in a rug, affording you greater safety and while you are home and when you’re away:
• Check all windows and door locks, upgrading where possible. Then use these simple protections — always
• Add a heavy-duty security storm door to outside doors and toughen up sliding patio doors with pin-locks and crossbars to deter forced opening.
• Trim back any shrubbery and bushes near windows and doors that might provide cover for a burglar’s work-in-process.
• Add outdoor security lighting with a motion detector on/off control.
• Add metal security bars over windows and doors in high-risk areas, such as basement windows. Make sure that these bars have quick-release safety latches for those inside.
• Never hide a house key in an obvious location. Even amateurs know most favorites, like under mats, in flower pots, and inside fake rocks.
• Close drapes and shades when you’re out to prevent looky-loo’s.
• Always watch for unusual activity and new faces near your home.
Even first time burglars-in-training know it’s better to hit an empty house than to break in and possibly contend with a gun-toting, professional wrestler-sized, teamster-tough, angered homeowner.
Even greenhorn thieves know to look for tell-tale signs that the owners are away. They know the difference between your spending an evening at Jane’s versus having left the country for a three-week African safari. What do they look for? First and foremost is a home that is dark, quiet, and appears to be unoccupied at the moment.
The best way to fool them? Make it look like you’re home! Use the following tips to scare off potential invaders:
• Use timers in different rooms to turn lights on and off.
• Have others turn the TV or radio on and off at normal hours as well.
• Leave a car parked in the driveway. It says: Somebody’s home.
• Have a friend or neighbor pick up mail and newspapers until you return. As an alternative, stop all mail and newspaper deliveries until you return.
• Never, ever change the message on your answering machine to proudly announce something like “The Wilson’s are off to Hawaii. See ya’ll in three weeks! Aloha!” You may as well be there to help crooks load their truck with your belongings.
• Arrange to have the lawn mowed. In winter, keep snow on front porches, sidewalks, and driveways shoveled.
In addition, consider the following before leaving on an extended trip:
• Hide all valuables in unlikely places, like the freezer or empty boxes and cans in kitchen cabinets.
• Make sure a neighbor has your itinerary and phone numbers to contact you in the event of an emergency.
For more home improvement tips and information visit our website at www.onthehouse.com or call us at 1-800-737-2474 every Saturday, 9 AM to 1 PM EST.