March 15, 2016

Homeowner Tips: Prepare for March Winds

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 3:48 pm

Most parts of North America may still be hunkering down in the cold, even as other regions are warm enough for homeowners to start planting gardens. Regardless of what the temperatures are like where you are, though, chances are you’ll be exposed to stronger than normal winds. Those can take a toll on your home and do damage – or even create safety hazards, if you are not prepared. Already in February there were unusually early tornadoes across the USA, for instance, that caused havoc, destruction, and deaths. So here are some home maintenance tips to help you get ready for March weather.

Check Trees for Loose Limbs
Use a pair of binoculars to check the tree for dead, rotten, or dislodged limbs. You’ll need to hire an arborist to safely remove those, because it needs to be done in a way that is also not going to cause unnecessary damage or disease to your valuable trees. Hiring unqualified people to do tree work can cause more harm than good, because if they trim the tree incorrectly it can kill the whole tree.

Since you’ll need arborist anyway to help to tend to any potentially hazardous limbs, it may be simpler and easier to just call an arborist and have them do the check for dead and rotten limbs. Their trained eyes will spot trouble easier than you can, even if you have binoculars. They can also provide you with a written estimate for remedying any problems they may find.

Observe the Roof, Safely
Hold on to those binoculars to check your roof, too, because it is not worth the risk to climb up on a high roof on a ladder. Every year homeowners are seriously injured or die from falls because they venture onto a roof. You can see whatever you need to from a safe vantage point using binoculars, and you’ll want to look for any stray limbs on the roof as well as missing, damaged, or badly curled or loose shingles or flashing around dormers and chimneys.
If you spot any trouble areas, have a roofing contractor do a closer investigation and perform any needed repairs. As long as your roof is in overall good shape, mending a few shingles will be relatively inexpensive – whereas leaving vulnerabilities heading into windy and rainy weather could be risk for leaking, which can become very costly and require both roof repairs and interior repairs to your home.

Review Your Emergency Plans
Every season it is a good idea to review and update your family’s emergency protocols. For winter you may have planned for a blizzard. But with spring arriving you should put away the ice melt, snow shovels, and space heaters and check to be sure that your fire extinguishers are charged, your smoke detectors are in good working order, and you have at least a 3-day supply of fresh water stored for emergencies. Make sure adults know how to turn off the plumbing, natural gas, and electricity if there is an emergency and that you have a safe room or basement where you can shelter in place in case of extremely high winds or a tornado.

Get Ready to Enjoy Springtime
If you haven’t already done so, it is also a good idea to give all your vehicles a good wash, especially on the undercarriage. That way the corrosive salts or other chemicals used as ice melt on the roadways in wintertime won’t continue to corrode the metal on the underside of your car or truck. Replace HVAC filters with new, clean ones, and start making your checklists for springtime flower bed maintenance and preparations for outdoor grilling and recreation.

December 15, 2015

Homeowner Tips: Have a safer holiday season.

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 11:43 am

The holidays are here, and to help ensure that you and your family have nothing to interfere with a full-on celebration of New Year’s, here are some helpful tips to keep you safe and sound this month.

Use Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Every home should have a adequate number of properly located, installed, and maintained smoke detectors as well as carbon monoxide detectors. These are inexpensive items, and your local fire department can visit your home and help you decide exactly where they should be located to provide the best level of safety.
Many people have smoke alarms, but don’t see the urgency of also installing carbon monoxide detectors. But every year people, and sometimes entire families, are hospitalized or die due to accidental exposure to carbon monoxide. The odorless and silent threat usually enters the home from the exhaust of an engine or because any fuel inside the home that burns gives off a certain amount of carbon dioxide. That applies to furnaces and fireplaces alike.

So don’t take a chance on endangering yourself, your family members, and your pets. Install both kinds of detectors and then replace the batteries once a year.

Protect Your Home While You’re Away

Millions of people across North America will leave home during December for holiday vacations and visits to relatives and friends. Before you go, make sure your home is well-protected. Most people know tricks such as using automatic gadgets to turn the lights on and off and have someone pick up the mail to make it look like someone is home, even when the house is vacant.
What is easier to overlook are telltale signs like snow in the driveway. A burglar watching the home who doesn’t see a shoveled walkway or tracks in the snow around your doors will know that you are not home, despite your other attempts to give that impression. So arrange to have someone shovel your walkways while you’re gone if there is a snowstorm.
Also be sure to disengage your automatic garage opener, because many burglars simply us a universal remote control gadget to open garages. That gives them easy access to whatever is inside the garage, plus an easier opportunity to break into the attached house.

Take Advantage of Digital Solutions

While you’re at, you can protect your home from an accidental fire due to faulty electronic appliances and simultaneously save a little electricity by disconnecting those gadgets you won’t be needing while you’re gone. Unplug items like computers, coffee makers, and food processors as part of your protocol whenever you go away for a few days or more.
Perhaps the biggest vulnerability is social media. Law enforcement agencies encourage homeowners to edit out any specific references to being gone from home, so that they do not inadvertently tip-off bad guys who roam sites like Facebook and Instagram. If someone is “casing”your home and they confirm via social media that you are gone, they’ll know that it’s an ideal time to strike.
But that doesn’t mean that Wi-Fi connectivity is a negative thing, because thanks to modern digital tech it’s easy and affordable to monitor your home, and its various systems, remotely. There are options including smart phone apps that let you stay informed and even visually peer into the rooms of your home, while you are away, and these are great investment that can deliver lots of peace of mind during the holidays.

November 15, 2015

Homeowner Tips: Caring for Your Tools

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 11:27 am

Lots of professional contractors believe that whenever they accept a job they should reinvest some of the money they earn from it by acquiring new tools. That’s a pretty good strategy, and it can also help you justify the cost of buying tools. Instead of fretting over the price tag, you may want to see that tool as a solid investment that will pay for itself over time. Most tools maintain decent resell value too, and sometimes the tool you buy today can be sold or traded to a neighbor or friend to help you purchase the tool you’ll need tomorrow.

But if you don’t take care of them, tools have a way of getting broken, rusted, or lost. That’s especially true of those tools that you only use during one season of the year. Since they might wind up in storage for up to nine months, homeowners often have a tendency to forget about them most of the year. But forgetfulness usually equals neglect, and if you neglect a valuable tool for half a year or more it may not get the job done next time you need it. So here are three simple tips to help you care for you tools.

Categorize Tools

• Before knowing how to care for tools, it helps to put them into categories. Some items like gloves, dust masks, and safety glasses are also tools, for example, and it’s good to organize them together in a drawer, trunk, or toolbox.

• You have your hand tools, but you should separate out all of those that require a sharp edge. Everything from hedge clippers and pruning shears to chisels, axes, and machetes belongs in this category.

• Then you have small electrical tools like grinders, sanders, electric screwdrivers, and extension cords. You want to put them in their own category. Finally you have those larger items like lawn mowers, table saws, cement mixers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and weed eaters.

• Once you have three or four general categories you can create appropriate storage for them, rotating the seasonal items like the leaf blower toward the back in the off season.

Protect Them

• Small hand tools that have a sharp edge or blade should be cleaned and sharpened after every use. Then give them a light coating of oil before putting them away. That will help prevent rusting. If you are storing them long-term, you might also want to put them into a moisture-resistant pouch or cloth.

• Visit any sporting goods or hunting supply store, for instance, and they should have “socks,” pouches, and cloths that are especially made for storing firearms away from moisture and humidity. They are great for stashing chisels, knives, and other tools you want to protect from rust and corrosion.

• No tools should be left out in the elements, not even a riding lawn mower or weed eater. Put them in the tool shed or garage. If you have to leave them under an exposed area such as a carport, set them off the ground on a wooden pallet or concrete blocks, and cover them up with a plastic tarp. Hang those tools like shovels and rakes, and if they are going to be stored for a long time give their metal surfaces a coating of protective oil.

Maintenance Tips

• Before storing tools that burn fuel, drain the fuel or burn it off so that it doesn’t harden and gunk up the engine or fuel lines. If your tools have tires, store them with the weight off the tires.

• If you’re storing your wheelbarrow for a month or more, for example, turn it upside down or stand it on its frame, not on the rubber wheel. That way your tires will last longer. You may also want to hang tools such as hand carts on the wall, as long as you have strong enough brackets to support them.

• You can sharpen many tools yourself with a file or ceramic rod. But if it’s an especially valuable item or made of hard-to-sharpen carbon steel then you can take it to a professional sharpening service. Don’t make the mistake of using dull tools, though, because they have a greater tendency to slip off of whatever you’re trying to cut. When that happens they can glance off and injure you.

Of course many tools can be hazardous in the hands of those who don’t know how to use them and respect them. So keep those under lock and key so that children, for example, don’t accidentally hurt themselves. You should always store tools and toolboxes out of sight, too, so you don’t temp thieves. If you’re carrying them in your vehicle, for instance, throw an old blanket or beach towel over them to camouflage them until you get home and can put them safely away.

September 15, 2015

August Homeowner Tips

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 10:40 am

August is a great time to perform two three important home maintenance tasks, namely feeding the lawn, checking for possible termite infestation, and photographing trees to monitor dead limb. Here are some tips on how to take care of those things as summer comes to a close.

Feed the Lawn
Many homeowners fertilize their lawns in the springtime. Far fewer do it again at the end of summer, which is also a vital time for feeding grass to ensure that it looks green and healthy next year. Lawn experts note that in the month of September grass growth begins to slow, so August is one of the prime months for boosting soil fertility. Neglecting the late-summer feeding, when the weather is particularly hot and humid in most places, can leave the lawn weakened for lack of adequate nutrition – and that makes it more vulnerable to a variety of diseases and blights.
But if you take the time to feed your lawn in August it will gain the strength needed to keep up its healthy resistance. Most lawns benefit from a high ration of nitrogen, a medium to high amount of potassium, and a moderately low feeding of phosphorus, and a controlled-release formula is usually best. To be sure what recipe of fertilizer will be the healthiest for your particular type of grass, consult the local agricultural extension service in your area.

Check for Termite Evidence
Every home is made from at least some wood, and for that reason it is important for every homeowner – even those with brick houses – to do routine checks for termite infestation. You may not be able to confirm an infestation, and you may not know whether the termites are still active. But you can examine for telltale signs that will help you spot a potential problem and address it in a proactive way to protect your property.

One thing to look for is the presence of mud-like material which creates an irregular pattern of thin lines or tubes that can resemble tiny vines made of dried mud. Subterranean termites live underground and use these pencil-sized tunnels to move back and forth from the moist subterranean nest to the wood, which is the food source supplying the nest. You’ll often see these kinds of tracks leading from the dirt up and across the exposed portion of the building’s foundation. Old tubes break and crumble into powder pretty easily, whereas active tubes may be less brittle and may even contain live termites.

Another sign of termite presence is piles of wings that have been shed by the creatures as they grow and evolve. If the paint on the wood is starting to buckle, that could also be an indicator of termite damage, and the same goes for tiny pinholes found in the wood. If you suspect termite damage you can tap on the wood with a rubber hammer. If the inside of the wood has been eaten away you should hear a hollow thud versus the solid sound made when tapping on a piece of healthy wood. Probing with a small knife may reveal tunnels that run parallel to the grain of the wood.

Of course you should not let these kinds of home maintenance be a substitute for a thorough termite inspection conducted by a qualified home inspector who specializes in pest control. Termites, wood-destroying ants, and other pests can do serious damage to your home while disguising themselves and avoiding you detection. So be sure to have a professional termite inspection done at least every 2-3 years.

Photograph Trees
People often find the suggestion to photograph trees odd, because to many homeowners it just doesn’t make sense. But arborists understand that monitoring the health of a tree can be difficult. You just don’t remember whether the tree looked the same last year or not. The solution is to stand under trees and photograph them from different angles while they are fully greened-out with foliage. What you’ll then look for is limbs that don’t have green leaves on them, because those may be dead or rotting. In the wintertime, after all the leaves are gone, you can get a closer look with a pair of binoculars or the help of an arborist. Monitoring trees from one year to the next in this way, aided by photographs, can help you spot trouble before it gets to the point that you have limbs falling on your car or your roof.

June 15, 2015

Homeowner Tips: Maintain brickwork like a pro.

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 1:50 pm

Summer is a great season for relaxing, and also for catching up on long-overdue home maintenance projects. Many of those require the expertise of a highly trained professional, but there are some that you may be able to complete as DIY projects.

One of those – which can be very expensive if you have to hire a masonry contractor – is touching up the mortar joints between brickwork around your home that may be starting to erode and deteriorate. While masonry work itself is generally rather complicated and requires hours and hours of practice, filling voids between bricks – a task the pros call “pointing up” or “tuck-pointing” the joints – is not rocket science. Mixing the right recipe for mortar can also be tricky, but today there are products available at any large home improvement center that solve that learning curve.

Tools and Products You’ll Need
Don’t try to mix your own sand, Portland cement, and water. If you get the ratios wrong the mortar will either be too thin and weak or it will be stronger and more dense than the adjoining bricks. Eventually such strong concrete can expand and cause the bricks next to it to crack and break.

• Buy a small sack of pre-mixed brick masonry mortar, which will be the right recipe for the job and follow the instructions for how much water to add to get a thick, caulk-like consistency. Use a small piece of wood – like a 12-inch by 12-inch piece of scrap plywood – to hold your mixed, wet mortar. You’ll also need a pointing trowel, which is a special type of trowel that is very skinny to help fit into mortar joints.

• Or take the easy route and buy Quikrete brand tuck-pointing mortar that comes ready to use in tubes just like the ones that dispense sealing caulk. You just aim into the gap you want to fill, using a regular caulk gun, and then smooth it out with your pointing trowel. If you accidentally smear mortar it can stain bricks, so be careful not to “paint outside the lines.” (To help clean up an accident, use a wet rag moistened with water.)
Get the right products and follow specific guidelines – while exercising plenty of patience and attention to detail – and you should be able to successfully point up bricks around your home just like a pro.

When to Call in a Professional
But don’t try to point up bricks on your chimney, because that is too hazardous. Not only do many homeowners fall from rooftops with catastrophic injuries or even lethal consequences, but if you use the wrong type of mortar on a chimney that is subjected to high temperatures, it may fail on you and create more harm than good.

Using ordinary mortar in a fireplace, meanwhile, can even cause an explosion as the air trapped in the mortar reacts with heat. Similarly, foundations made of brick or block that support your home should be maintained by certified pros, because if they lose their structural integrity it could be like Humpty Dumpty. You entire house could settle, shift, or worse.

May 15, 2015

Homeowner Tips: Spring time beautification

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 9:41 am

With spring here, homeowners can now shift their focus to more cheerful chores, like planting flowers and gardens and getting ready for outdoor grilling season after a long winter. Those who are thinking of selling their homes can also raise the profile of their homes in positive ways that can translate into faster sales at higher prices, by increasing their curb appeal. Either way, whether you are marketing your home or just looking forward to enjoying it with friends and family, it helps to have a few expert tips on how to make it shine – with the least amount of labor and money.

Add Color & Contrast
Adding color and contrast can make the look of your home really “pop” in an attractive way. You can accomplish this by painting window trim with a bright new coat of white paint, for instance, while giving exterior shutters and doors a handsome dark color.

The same goes for flower beds. Select some pretty pastel-colored flowers, but contrast them against a healthy bed of dark brown mulch. The mulch will dress up your landscape while it also helps to keep plants protected and retain moisture after you water or it rains.

Update Weary-Looking Garage Doors
One area that homeowners often overlook is the garage door. If you have a big garage attached to your home, though, it could count for as much as 25% of your entire curb appeal. When people see the front of your home, make sure that the large rectangular section occupied by your garage door also adds to the good looks of your home instead of detracting from them.
You may just need to but a fresh coat or two of paint or stain to bring the garage door back to life. But if it is starting to warp or deteriorate, go ahead and invest in a replacement. Not only is that important for visual curb appeal, but you want a solid, well-functioning door for safety and overall home maintenance. Otherwise a door that is no longer working properly may lead to flooding underneath it if there is a hard rain, or be an invitation to thieves to use it to gain entrance to your home while you’re away.

Decks and Walkways
Another area to pay close attention to for both beautification as well as safety is decks and walkways. If a walkway has broken steps or stones that are not level that not only looks bad but can be a tripping and falling hazard. Similarly, decks that are not properly repaired may be a risk for splinters underfoot, tripping hazards underfoot, or for loose and unsafe railings.
Keep your deck painted or stained to keep it from deteriorating, and make sure than all the bolts and fasteners are in good shape with no rust or corrosion. If the floor of the deck has boards that need to be replaced, do it – otherwise someone could be injured – and the same goes for rails, steps, and banisters.

The Roof and Gutter System
Finally, use a pair of binoculars to visually inspect your roof for any signs of wear and tear or loose shingles and curled, out-of-position flashing. Also check to be sure that the gutters are in good shape and aren’t clogged with debris or sagging.

You should also check to make sure your chimney is stout and solid, if you have one, looking for telltale signs of trouble such as mortar joints between bricks that are eroded or have gaps. You may need to call in a pro – such as a contractor or home inspector – to assist with this kind evaluation. But doing so every year or two can be a good idea to help ensure the longevity of your roof and the safety of your chimney and gutter system.

April 15, 2015

Homeowner Tips: Does your home have toxic formaldehyde levels?

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 9:31 am

Many consumers across North America were alarmed by a recent “60 Minutes” TV show investigation focused on the presence of unacceptable levels of formaldehyde in laminate flooring products sold by Lumber Liquidators. At the center of the controversy were products imported from China that apparently failed to meet California’s rather stringent health regulations. Speaking for the company, the head of Lumber Liquidators defended his products as safe and promised that if they were not adhering to regulations he would find out and take action.

What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a chemical commonly found in construction product polymers and adhesives, and is often used in building materials such as particle board and plywood. Although it has been shown that extended exposure to formaldehyde, especially in closed, non-ventilated environments, can cause serious health risks, it is still widely used. The primary problem is that the chemical gives off gases that are then inhaled, and prolonged exposure can cause symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems. That’s because manufacturers have not yet found a comparable replacement chemical that is just as affordable.

Regulatory Action
The state of California, which has the strictest environmental regulations in the USA, tightly regulates the levels of formaldehyde that are permissible. Although researchers have known for many years that extended exposure to higher concentrations of formaldehyde can present serious health risks, however, the U.S. Congress did not pass the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act until 2010.

That federal legislation regulates the levels of formaldehyde emissions from hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and particle board that is sold, supplied, offered for sale or manufactured in the United States, and finished goods produced from these composite wood products.

The Presence of Formaldehyde
One of the most common ways that homeowners are adversely affected by formaldehyde is when they live in a mobile home or manufactured home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “higher levels have been found in new manufactured or mobile homes than in older conventional homes.”

But how do you know what levels are present in your home, especially if it is not a brand new home and you aren’t sure how much formaldehyde was used in building it? Even though certain high levels of contamination are illegal, most homeowners do not want to be exposed to any elevated levels of formaldehyde, especially if they have children who are especially susceptible to health risks from formaldehyde exposure.

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
If you suspect that formaldehyde is compromising your health and well being you should contact a qualified environmental inspector. They can run tests to evaluate your home and see if there are toxic levels of the chemical present. To take a more proactive approach you should also insist that contractors or builders only use products that have acceptable levels of formaldehyde or are completely formaldehyde-free. Keep in mind that formaldehyde may also be used in the manufacturing of furniture. To read more about what the EPA has to say about formaldehyde in wood products, check out this link to the EPA website:

http://www2.epa.gov/formaldehyde/formaldehyde-emission-standards-composite-wood-products#Formaldehyderegs

March 15, 2015

Homeowner Tips: Essential items for power outages.

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 2:52 pm

Spring may be just around the corner, but forecasters have also predicted that this will be an especially long winter. That means that in many parts of North America there may be late winter storms that bring both ice and snow. At the same time, March is typically a very windy month. So there may still be plenty of challenging weather on the menu for March, and that can make it a month when the power goes out unexpectedly.

That increases the importance of incorporating emergency planning into your home maintenance regimen. Storms that knock out power can be an annoyance, and if they are severe enough they can be potentially dangerous. To minimize the inconvenience while maximizing the health of your home and the safety of its occupants, every home should have drinking water, food, a heat source, and adequate supplies of any prescription medicines that occupants of your home need.

Medicines
Most families know that they need to stock at least a week’s supply of any important prescription medications that family members require. What they often neglect to do, however, is to also stock up on medicines that they pets may need.

Another easy mistake to make is to stash those meds and then just forget about them. That could mean that when you really need them in an emergency they have passed their expiration date and may not be as effective.

The way to keep track of this is when you put prescriptions into your emergency stash, go to your calendar and make a note to check them prior to the expiration date. That way you’ll have a reminder to replace drugs in a timely fashion.

Water
If you drink contaminated water you can develop a terrible illness which will only magnify the gravity of your situation and make you too weak to take care of yourself.
Even if water looks clear and clean, it may contain bacteria that can cause dysentery or other potentially life-threatening diseases. The solution is to boil the water before you drink it, to kill any harmful bacteria.

Fortunately there are also many water purification gadgets on the market that help you filter and sterilize water before you drink it.But if you want to save on money and keep it simple, you can buy water purification tablets that dissolve in water to make it safe.

The Centers for Disease Control also advises that you can purify a gallon of water with 1/8 to 1/4 of a teaspoon of household bleach – as long as the bleach is the plain kind and has no added perfumes or scenting chemicals. Set aside just a pint bottle of bleach and you’re good to go, with enough to purify between 500 and 1,000 gallons of water.

Warmth
Keeping warm can be one of the biggest challenges, especially for the majority of homeowners who do not have a fireplace to rely upon as a back-up plan. If you heat with gas, and the gas is still working, you’re in great shape. But while your gas stove may work when the power is off, most furnaces use electricity for ignition or in the thermostat. That means that even if the gas is on you won’t have heat if the electrical grid is down.

One way to protect yourself is with a portable heater, but many of these use kerosene or other fuel and need to be properly ventilated so that you don’t inhale toxic carbon monoxide. So use them with care, following all the manufacturer’s safety guidelines.

Keep plenty of warm clothes (including thick socks) and blankets on hand, because you can always pile on the layers to stay warm. Another great idea is to invest in some quality sleeping bags made for camping, that are rated for extreme cold. You can check their tags to find out what temperatures they are designed for, and you can find many high-tech sleeping bags that are also super lightweight and even pack up into a tiny bundle that is easy to store. If you are caught in a worse case scenario, you can always bundle up in sleeping bags and stay warm that way until the power comes back on or other help arrives.

Food
Food is the easy part, because you can purchase emergency food supplies made for military use. We’re talking high-calorie bars used by the Coast Guard or high-protein “meals ready to eat” or MRE’s that are used by all branches of the military to feed soldiers in the field. You can even stock up on Ramen noodles and cans of tomato paste to survive most any off-grid situation for a long, long time.
But the mistake that most people make is that they only stock their emergency pantry with that kind of food, which is ordinary, rather tasteless, and not much fun to eat. Why is that a mistake? You can survive on it, but in an emergency one of the only ways to keep your spirits high and have something to look forward to is if you have tasty treats. Otherwise children, and even adults, can get really cranky or bummed-out with really nothing to entertain them and not much to do.

So make sure you also invest in high-energy granola bars or similar sweet treats that are also packed with nutrition. Think about other treats you and your kids like that have a long shelf life and don’t require cooking.

Make a fun menu for your emergency food supplies – including raisons, peanut butter and jelly, fruit roll-ups, and maybe some marshmallows plus some unopened boxes of saltines that last a long time without getting stale. You can also buy military MRE bread, which tastes a little strange at first but lasts forever without getting stale. When you’re hungry and have something yummy to spread on it you’ll quickly adapt to the taste.

Stash some condensed milk and a tin of powdered hot chocolate, too, plus plenty of coffee. That way you can have a hot cup of java or hot chocolate every hour, and that is great for your morale. Keep some vanilla extract around the kitchen, too, and you can whip up some snow ice cream with that and some condensed milk.

January 15, 2015

Homeowner Tips for the New Year

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 2:44 pm

Every January it is the right time to make those annual goals and promises to yourself that will ensure a healthier and happier year. If you’re a homeowner you should also incorporate home maintenance plans and projects into the scheme of things, to ensure that your home not only stays safe and sound but that you also preserve your investment in it and grow your equity as much as possible.

The trouble with New Year’s resolutions, of course, is that most people either don’t make any or they make those that are not practical and achievable. Setting goals that are too lofty and ambitious can undermine the whole strategy and just leave you feeling as if you aren’t capable. We don’t want to start down that path, so the first step is to set realistic and doable goals.

A really great way to accomplish this is to create a home maintenance calendar of events. That way, all throughout the year, you can glance at your calendar to find out what home maintenance tasks have priority that particular month.

Here are some good guidelines that will work well with most people living in regions of typical climate across North America:

1st Quarter
January: Make sure your holiday decorations are taken down and stored away. Check your stock of emergency supplies like candles, flashlights, food and water, and a portable camping stove in case you get stranded by winter storms.
February: Be sure the handrails are sturdy and that you keep the steps and walkways clear of hazardous ice underfoot. Buy more de-icer if necessary before the next storm hits.
March: With winter winding down and high winds coming, it is a good time to police the grounds and look for damaged tree limbs. Set up an appointment with a tree surgeon if necessary to trim away dead or damaged limbs. Start planning your spring garden and lawn projects now, so that you’ll be ready as soon as the weather warms up enough to plant.

2nd Quarter

April: April traditionally brings lots of rain, and if your drainage is inadequate that could contribute to bigger problems. Check the drainage around your home and if puddles are gathering near the foundation have a contractor troubleshoot the problem.
May: Don’t forget to add mulch and compost to your flower beds or vegetable garden to keep the plants fertilized and capture as much moisture as possible, even when there is little rain.
June: June is a good month to schedule an annual termite inspection. Termites and other wood-boring insects can cause catastrophic damage, but if you check for them once a year you will have no worries.

3rd Quarter
July: July is a good month for exterior painting. So if your house needs a touch-up now is one of the best chances for that before the weather changes and makes house painting harder to schedule.
August: Since August is such a hot month – and there are plenty of projects to do outdoors like gardening – be sure to play it safe. Drink plenty of water and don’t work during the hottest time of day. Stay hydrated and healthy.
September: Get ready for leaf season and make sure your rakes and leaf blower are in good shape. If you have a ladder and a friend to “spot” for you so it is safe you can give the gutters a good cleaning.

4th Quarter
October: Soon the snow and ice will come and if the roof is not in good shape it will contribute to all sorts of other home maintenance problems. Check the roof and make sure that it is in good shape with no curled shingles or missing flashing.
November: Make sure that all the plumbing pipes are well insulated and that the basement and attic are not leaking heat or letting cold air inside. Check the caulking around windows and the weather stripping around doors.
December: Be sure your car has a strong, charged battery and an emergency kit inside in case you get stranded on the road during winter. Make sure that any Christmas lights you put up are safe, and that if you have a tree inside you keep it watered so that it does not dry out and become a fire hazard.

Of course if you live in a really southern area or in the far north where the winters are long and colder you can adjust accordingly. The main thing is to start a calendar that works for you, with projects that are not going to take up so much time or cost so much money that you will never get around to them. Keep it simple, do what you can each month, and add you own ideas along the way. By this time next year you’ll have plenty of DIY home maintenance to feel proud about, and that’s something worth celebrating.

December 15, 2014

Homeowner Tips: December DIY Safety

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 9:26 am

DIY tasks are not just work, but they can also contribute to your qualify of life, self-confidence, and that uplifting feeling that comes from a job well done. Getting out there on a cold day to shovel snow, split firewood, or clear tree limbs that fell during a storm, for instance, can make you feel proud and satisfied.

But unless you are physician you probably did not know that the holiday season can be especially hazardous to your health. Yes, it’s a medical fact. So while you may have a tendency to go all-out all year ‘round, don’t forget that the first rule of any home maintenance project is “safety comes first.” That’s true for professionals and do-it-yourselfers alike.
Safety First, Especially During the Holidays

According to a report in USAToday, the peak days of the year for heart attacks all occur during the traditional holiday season. Many of those happen while homeowners are working, too.

• One explanation is that blood vessels constrict in cold weather, which elevates blood pressure and increases the chances of a blood clot that lead to a heart attack or stroke. When you exert yourself physically while exposed to cold temperatures, that can compound the strain on your body. One of the biggest culprits that doctors routinely document is snow shoveling, which can be a deceptively strenuous activity.

• As grim as it sounds, the greatest number of heart attack deaths occur on Christmas Day. The next highest number happen the day after Christmas or on New Year’s Day. Researchers at the University of California, and Tufts University School of Medicine found increases in cardiac deaths for all except just two of the holiday periods between 1973 and 2001.
The good news is that just being aware of the connection between ordinary DIY projects and the December phenomenon of greater threats to your health can enable you to work smarter, not harder.

What to Do to Stay Safe

• Take it easy. If you are removing snow shovel slowly, and work in short shifts, rather than attacking the snow in your driveway all at once. Pace yourself, in other words, just as you would if you were working outdoors on the hottest day of the year and didn’t want to overexert yourself or get dehydrated.

• Remember than hydration is also vital even in frigid weather, and alcohol may quench your thirst but it does not actually warm up the body or contribute to healthy hydration.

• So as tempting as it may be, try to drink water, hot soup, or a cup of hot chocolate instead of eggnog – if you plan to do some work like shoveling snow or hauling firewood.

• According to the American Heart Association, people also shouldn’t eat a big meal beforehand. So schedule your cardio-boosting DIY activities for between meals. Then when you are finished and ready to go inside and warm up you can treat yourself to a hearty meal and festive beverage.

Other Contributing Factors

But this spike in heart attacks even happens in balmy climates. What happens is that people tend to postpone health care – or put off going to the doctor or emergency room – when they are in the middle of a holiday celebration. Maybe they don’t want to disrupt the festive mood, or they are just distracted and chalk their symptoms up to overeating.
Play it safe. Don’t risk an adverse health event that could definitely spoil the holidays for you and your loved ones. If you don’t feel well, tell someone. When in doubt, get to your doctor of the nearest emergency room. Most of all, take advantage of the holidays to rest, relax, and spend quality time with friends and family. Many of those chores can wait a little while, and you deserve to pause and celebrate.

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