With the winter and the holiday season arriving, now is a good time for homeowners to take some simple precautions to help protect their family and property from fire. Here are some tips that can help prevent fire hazards in the home and can save property and more importantly the lives of the people and pets you love.
Check holiday lights for fraying or broken wires and plugs. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines as to how many strands can be joined together, as a fire hazard could result from overload. Enjoy indoor holiday lighting only while someone is home and turn it off before going to bed.
Candles add lovely ambience to a holiday home. Never leave burning candles unattended, even for a short time. For peace of mind, use battery-operated LED candles for a realistic-looking alternative that is safe for all.
Keep live Christmas trees in a water-filled stand and check daily for dehydration. Brown or lots of fallen needles indicate a dangerously dried-out tree that could catch on fire easily and quickly and should be discarded immediately.
Lamps, appliances, and electronics should be checked for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs, and exposed wiring. Never run electrical wires, including extension cords, under carpets or rugs even temporarily as this creates a fire hazard.
Fireplaces should be checked by a professional chimney sweep each year and cleaned if necessary, to prevent a dangerous buildup of creosote, which can cause a flash fire in the chimney. Cracks in masonry chimneys should be repaired, and spark arresters inspected to ensure they are in good condition and free of debris.
When using space heaters, keep them away from beds and bedding, curtains, paper – anything flammable. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Space heaters should not be left unattended while in use or where a child or pet could knock them over.
Use smoke detectors with fresh batteries unless they are hard wired to your home’s electrical system. Smoke detectors should be installed on ceilings on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside every sleeping area. Statistics show that nearly 60% of home fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms.
Children should not have access to or be allowed to play with matches, lighters or candles. Flammable materials such as gasoline, kerosene, or propane should always be stored outside of and away from the house.
Kitchen fires know no season. According to the U.S. National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading cause of house fires. Grease spills, items left unattended on the stove or in the oven, and food left in toasters or toaster ovens can catch fire quickly. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher within easy reach. Extinguishers specifically formulated for grease and cooking fuel fires are widely available and can supplement an all-purpose extinguisher.
Have an escape plan. This is one of the most important measures to prevent death in a fire. Visit ready.gov for detailed information on how to make a plan. Make sure all family members know how to dial 911 in case of a fire or other emergency. Don’t forget your pets, have a plan for them too!
Your local Pillar To Post Home Inspectors office wishes you and your clients a happy and safe holiday season!
The charms of living in an older home can be many – history, style, craftsmanship, quirks. But there’s no denying that living in such a home has its challenges. Maintenance can be tricky and expensive, especially if certain systems and features have been neglected over the years. Let’s take a look at some common situations found in many older homes:
Energy inefficiency is probably the number one issue with older homes. Most older homes were constructed with single-pane windows; if these windows are still in use, they likely don’t fit very well. Replacement windows can be very expensive, but will contribute immensely to reduced energy use and lower heating and cooling costs. Most replacement windows are available in several styles and at different price points, so finding ones that suit the look of an older home is easier than ever.
Like single-pane windows, poor insulation will also waste energy and money – and make living in the home uncomfortable. The most important and easiest area of the home to insulate is the attic, but walls and floors above ventilated crawlspaces should be insulated as well if possible. The attic may already have insulation but it may be inadequate by current standards.
If the home has older water pipes, they should be checked to identify the material and determine if they need to be replaced. Some older materials such as galvanized steel, iron, and even lead are still in use today even though new construction doesn’t allow them. Replacement options include copper and CPVC piping.
Outdated electrical systems can still sometimes be found in older homes and may not only be dangerous, they can make the house uninsurable in some situations. Even if no danger is present, we use much more electricity in our homes today and the capacity of older systems may be inadequate. Only a qualified electrician should attempt any repairs or updates to a home’s electrical system.
With careful maintenance and a nod to history, older homes can be comfortable, stylish, and even energy efficient in the right hands.
With summer just around the corner, now is a great time to get your home in top shape for the months ahead. Whatever your weather, caring for your home now will help to ensure a worry-free, comfortable summer. Follow a few of these tips each week and enjoy the rest of the season knowing that your home is in good shape.
Vacuum or brush off refrigerator coils to help maintain energy efficiency. Depending on your model, the coils will be located either on the bottom or on the back of the appliance.
Empty dehumidifier pans and clean the hoses according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
If possible, take area rugs outside and hang them over a deck or porch rail to air out.
Adjust ceiling fans for proper balance and change the rotation to the summer setting. While you’re at it, give the unit a good dusting to avoid blowing dust around the room.
Switch out heavy bedding for lightweight summer fabrics. Have the winter bedding cleaned before storing it away for the season.
Close the chimney flue to prevent insects from entering and to help keep cool air in during the months ahead.
Repot houseplants to give their roots a fresh start for the summer.
Check door and cabinet hinges and lubricate any that stick or squeak.
Open windows even on cooler days to get fresh air flowing throughout the home.
Inspect siding for cracks or other damage and make any needed repairs.
If paint is peeling, cracking, or chipped, repair and repaint now to limit damage to the underlying materials.
Remove window screens and clean them with a soft brush and soapy water. Rinse well and allow them to dry in the sun. Repair any holes or tears, or replace the screen material before reinstalling. It’s a fairly easy DIY job to replace the screening, or you can check to see if your local hardware store offers this service.
Have the air conditioning unit serviced to ensure good operation. Promote good air intake by keeping shrubs and plants around the unit trimmed.
Clear dirt and debris from gutters and eaves.
Seal cracks in the driveway and keep walkways clear of debris and overgrown plants.
Test irrigation and sprinkler systems and replace any broken sprinkler heads or emitters. Check for proper water coverage and adjust if necessary.
Power wash decks and patios and seal surfaces as appropriate.
From all of us at Pillar To Post, here’s wishing you and your home a wonderful summer!