Ringing in a Safe New Year
If you’re like the rest of us, you’ve wrung in the New Year with a list of resolutions to improve and enrich your life. In general, most resolutions involve self-improvement such as quitting smoking, losing weight and getting more exercise. Though excellent goals, they can be overwhelming and result in failure.
We believe that setting goals is a good idea, so long as they are realistic and achievable. We also believe that along with your self-improvement New Year resolutions it’s a good idea to make a few home-improvement resolutions that will save time, money and keep your home in good shape.
As with other resolutions, we suggest that you set realistic goals that are achievable. Moreover, it’s essential to prioritize your home improvement projects according to order of importance. We believe that your New Year home improvement resolutions list should begin with safety and security. Resolve to do things that will protect your home and family from injury and loss.
What follows is our list of suggested New Year home improvement resolutions for you and your home.
Fireplace: Have your fireplace, wood stove and chimney inspected by a certified chimney sweep at lease once annually to ensure that it is safe and operating at peak efficiency. A poorly burning appliance can result in carbon monoxide poisoning and a dirty or cracked chimney can result in an explosive fire that can level your home.
Carbon Monoxide (CO): Dubbed the silent killer, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that is a byproduct of poor combustion. Each year thousands of people – entire families among them – are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. You can protect your family by having all fuel burning appliances – stoves, furnaces, water heaters, etc. – are in good working order and that burners are clean, adjusted and the flames are bright blue. Most local utility companies will perform this inspection at no charge or for a modest fee.
If you don’t have carbon monoxide detectors, install them. They should be installed on all levels of a home – including the basement where many furnaces and water heaters are located and near the bedrooms to alert sleeping adults and children of potential dangers. CO detectors are simple to install. Battery operated models can be place on a bookshelf or mounted on a ceiling, whereas AC models are simple plugged into an electrical outlet.
Fire and Smoke: There are many improvement items that can be added to your resolution list when it comes to fire and smoke. First, if you don’t have smoke detectors, install them. If you live in an older home, chances are good that you have a smoke detector in a common hall adjacent to the bedrooms. That’s not enough protection. As with CO detectors, smoke detectors should be installed on every level of a home – including the basement – and in every bedroom.
If your smoke detectors are more than ten years old replace them with a new model. Studies demonstrate that old smoke detectors fail – leaving you and your family with a false sense of security. When shopping for new smoke detectors consider installing a new wireless interconnected system that will trigger all alarms to sound when one goes off. This can be especially important in saving the lives of children and seniors who, otherwise, would not be able to be awakened. They’re easy to install and, as the name implies, don’t require any wiring. Hard wired systems are available for new construction.
If you have smoke detectors installed in all of the right places and they are less than ten years old, that’s only part of the challenge. Resolve to check them at least once per month and keep them clean by periodically vacuuming them using an upholstery brush. Dust prevents the sensor from doing its job! And checking a detector to ensure that it is working involves more than pushing the “test” button – that only determines that the unit has power and that the alarm is functioning. Test the sensor wafting smoke from a candle or by using a smoke substitute in an aerosol can available at most home sensors and hardware stores.
Slips and falls: Slips and falls are among the leading cause of serious home injuries, many of which result in death. Not surprising, a majority of interior falls occur in the bathroom – specifically in the bath tub. You can avoid a nasty fall by installing non skid decals to the surface of the tub. If you’re not into “flower power” decals that went out with olive appliances, clear sheets that appear to be integral to the tub are now available. The key to a lasting installation is a clean tub. Scrub the tub with a nonabrasive cleanser, rinse, dry and wipe down with denatured alcohol.
Another means of avoiding falls is by installing grab bars to make it easier to get in and out of the tub or shower. Towel bars or toilet tissue holders are poor substitutes. Use only approved grab bars such as those that you might find in a commercial bathroom. Equally important is the quality of installation. Grab bars must be solidly anchored to framing – studs or blocking – using screws.
Exterior falls are especially prevalent during winter. Rain, snow and ice are common causes of nasty falls. Keep snow shoveled and use ice melt or sand on paths to prevent falls. Another source of nasty falls is a slimy moss that builds up on paths, patios, decks and steps. Use a mild solution of bleach, detergent and hot water (one-third cup powdered laundry detergent, one quart of liquid chlorine bleach and one gallon of hot water) to clean up the slimy surfaces. Mix up the solution and apply it with a pump garden sprayer. Allow it to sit for a few minutes, but don’t let it dry out. Work it in with a stiff bristle broom and rinse with fresh water. Using a pressure washer will make the job easier. In the spring when weather is warmer, consider using a sealer on concrete to prevent a feeding ground for moss and apply non skid pads to steps.
Exterior lighting: Motion sensor lighting can prevent nasty falls and protect you and your home from intruders. Motion sensors recognize body heat in motion and turn on lighting for a brief period. They are especially useful if you have an armload of groceries or are searching for you house key in the dark. Motion sensors can be installed as an add-on to most existing fixtures or may be purchased as an integral part of a new fixture. In either case, install them at all exterior doors and in dark locations surrounding your home. Low voltage path lighting is another excellent means of avoiding a nasty fall and, as a bonus, it can perk up the appearance of your place.
Here’s to a safe and Happy New Year!
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.