Tips for Improving Your “Home for the Holidays”
The holiday season, though festive, can be overwhelming, even chaotic for some. There’s shopping, decorating, entertaining, cooking, cleaning and a host of other tasks that can make an already busy life virtually unmanageable. In an attempt to “get it all done”, many folks take short cuts that can expose their home and family to dangers such as house fires or safety and security hazards. We have found that planning, preparation and pacing can lessen the stress and help avoid holiday-destroying pitfalls.
We offer the following tips on how to choose a fresh Christmas tree, how to keep it fresh through the holidays, how to prevent electrical problems when hanging lights and how to keep your home safe and secure during holiday travel.
Choosing a Christmas tree can be a grueling task. Beyond the quest to find the “perfect” tree with a faultlessly straight trunk and uniform pouting branches, there are things you should know and do to get the freshest tree possible — one that will stay green and safe for many days to come. Stand the tree upright and give it the “scratch, thump and bend” test.
First, reach in and scrape the trunk hard. The bark should be moist and green underneath.
Then, lift the tree and thump it down hard. If there’s a shower of needles, it’s too dry.
Finally, bend a branch way over. If it snaps, the tree is too dry, and won’t last very long. Many trees are cut four to eight weeks before they go on sale and, thus, become a fire hazard. So before you buy, remember to “scratch, thump and bend.”
For many, a fresh fragrant Christmas tree enhances the holiday season. Conversely, a dry brittle tree can lead to disaster. The secret to a fresh tree is simple. Treat your Christmas tree as carefully as you would a bouquet of fine flowers. Once you’ve found a tree that passes the scratch, thump and bend test, get the tree home and make a fresh cut on the butt to open up the pores and immediately put the tree in water. If you don’t make a fresh cut, the tree won’t be able to absorb the water. Next, place the tree in a sturdy stand which will hold at least one gallon of plain water and water the tree daily. An average tree consumes between a quart and a gallon of water each day. Keep the tree away from heat sources such as heating vents, fireplaces, wood stoves and sunny windows.
Are you one of those fanatics who puts up so many outdoor Christmas lights that jet planes think your house is a runway? Remember Chevy Chase’s house in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?” In the movies, decorating disasters are funny. At your house, safety is no laughing matter. Here are a few things you can do to make sure your holidays are safe.
First, never use indoor lights outside. Only use UL-approved exterior lights.
Stay off the roof to avoid falls and causing leaks. Suspend lights from hangers rather than nailing or stapling – these methods can cut into wires, creating shocks, shorts and hazards. Putting too many strands together can cause overheating and a fire. Overloaded circuits can blow fuses and trip circuit-breakers. A little decorating common sense will make your home a safe showplace this holiday season.
For many, the holidays mean vacation time and leaving home for relaxing or family gatherings far away. But when you’re off in search of post-holiday bargains or visiting Uncle Charlie and Aunt Jane, it’s the wrong time to think and wonder: “Did I unplug the iron?” If you’re planning a trip for the holidays, be sure your home is vacation-ready too.
First, there are obvious things such as halting mail and newspaper deliveries or setting timers to turn on lights and a radio. Let trusted neighbors and your alarm company know you’ll be gone. In the heat of packing and getting under way, it’s easy to forget things if you don’t have a check list. “Things to do” should include avoiding any potential household problems by unplugging appliances and resetting thermostats to save energy while you’re gone. Do a full house survey and write everything down. The next time you travel, use it again.
With the holidays come visits from family and friends. Keep in mind that your home might be somewhat unfamiliar ground to many who gather there. Make your home a safer place to visit by ensuring that exterior lighting is up to snuff. (You may know the exact height of every curb and step leading to your home and can get from the garage to the front door in the snow after dark with your hands tied behind your back. But your guests probably can’t.)
Best to consider some of the following tips. First, think about installing automatic light controls — the kind that operate by sensing heat or motion. Photoelectric operation is OK, but a timer must be added to this kind of configuration so that lights can be automatically turned off when not needed. Solar garden lights don’t need wires and can be staked into the ground next to entry walks and driveways. After the holidays — when traffic subsides — the walk lights can be stored until next time.
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.