Archive for Home Safety

Thaw after Deep Freeze Can Wreak Havoc on Your Home

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Maintenance, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2014 by Pat Hansen

A February thaw is here and while it will undoubtedly be a relief from the recent temperatures, the rapid warm-up also comes with some hazards, especially for homeowners.

House, snow (jeltovski | morgueFile.com)

Photo credit: jeltovski | morgueFile.com

The build-up of ice along roofs and gutters can lead to sudden problems when the ice melts. When it refreezes, it causes ice damming and that ice damming can cause things like water stains inside the home. Water dripping through the soffits can push gutters off the home and can also push shingles off.

What can you do to prevent an ice dam from building up?

Proper insulation

Attic in need of insulationKeep your attic space at the same temperature as the outside air. As heat rises from your home into the attic, it will cause the snow and ice on your roof to melt quickly, which when it refreezes causes the ice dam. Using proper insulation will keep the heat in your home, but more importantly it will keep it from escaping into your roof shingles through your attic. If there are air leaks, warm air will pass through traditional insulation. The leaks need to be sealed for the insulation to do its job. To do a proper job in sealing air leaks, all insulation should first be removed.

Insulation also prevents moisture from forming inside your attic, which can create mold and mildew.

Roof raking

Some experts say whenever there is a big snowstorm, homeowners should use a roof rake to scrape the first two or three feet of their roofs free from snow. They recommend doing this within 24 hours of the snowfall. This frees up the bottom area of the roof so that as the water does run down, it doesn’t get stuck in the snow and gets right off the gutter and also right off the roof.

Be careful not to chop at your roof with the rake as this can damage shingles.

Heater cables

If you can’t reach the first few feet of your roof to rake it, you may choose to install heater cables. The cables line the first few feet along the eaves of your home and even run through the gutter, to help ice and snow melt and keep the moisture free-flowing.

Ice can pose a danger to gutters as it is heavier than water and snow, causing gutters to droop under the weight. Expanding ice can also push apart gutter seams and push gutters away from the fascia which attaches them to the home.

Do you have an ice dam? What should homeowners look for?

  • If you see Ceiling Water Damagewater spots inside your home this could just be tip of the iceberg – you may have inches of damp insulation in your attic.
  • If you see water pouring off of the soffits of your home, it is likely running out through the attic and could be rotting out the wood.
  • If you see water running between the gutters and the fascia board, there may also be problems.
  • Have the chimney inspected. Cracks and pieces of brick lying on the roof indicate that ice and water have gotten in between the mortar and expanded.

How to Remove Ice Dams – Hire a Pro

There are plenty of hack methods for removing ice dams such as using an axe, ice pick, salt tablets, heat cables and a pressure washer. If ice dams need to be removed, hire a pro to steam them off. Don’t let anyone near your roof with a pressure washer or the shingles might end up discolored.

Use Your Fireplace Safely and Effectively This Winter

Posted in Around Your Home, Energy Efficiency, Home Safety, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , on December 18, 2013 by Pat Hansen

During the winter months, many families gather around their home’s fireplace. A fire in the fireplace creates a warm and cozy atmosphere, but don’t expect it to add heat to your home. As little as 10 percent of the heat from a fire in an open masonry fireplace radiates into the house.

The National Association of Home Builders’ MyHome Press has published a handbook for home owners, “Home Maintenance Made Easy,” and the excerpt below contains helpful advice on how to safely build fires and maintain your fireplace.

Wood Burning Fireplaces

Your fireplace will add elegance and warmth if you use it safely and have it cleaned by a chimney cleaning professional at least once every five years (two years if you use it frequently). A wood-burning fireplace should be equipped with andirons (or a grate) and a well-fitting screen. It may have glass doors as well.

Gathering Room (Fairfield New Home), Clarkston, Michigan | Robert R. Jones Homes
If you are in a newer home
with a fresh air vent to supply the fireplace with combustion air, open it and the damper before you start a fire. Then remember to close both when you are not using the fireplace so warm air will not escape in the winter and cool air will not escape in the summer.

Build fires on the andirons or grate—not directly on the fireplace floor. Seasoned hardwood is the best fuel. Do not burn pine logs in your fireplace; they contain a tar that can start a fire in the chimney if it accumulates. Do not burn trash in the fireplace. Never use kerosene, gasoline, charcoal lighter fluid, or other highly flammable liquids to start a fire.

Begin with a small fire to allow the components of the fireplace to heat up slowly. Burn kindling and newspaper under the grate; stack two to three layers of logs with air space between them, placing the largest logs to the rear. You can burn one sheet of paper atop the stack to help the chimney start to draw.

If the fire is still burning but you are finished enjoying it, close the glass doors if you have them to prevent heated air from being drawn up the chimney (until you can close the damper). But don’t close glass doors over a roaring fire, especially if you are burning hardwoods like oak or hickory; the heat could break the glass. When you close the doors over a burning fire, open the mesh screens first. This prevents excessive heat buildup on the mesh, which might warp or discolor it. Be sure the fire is out each night before you go to bed.

Gas Fireplaces

A gas fireplace provides the comfort and style of a wood-burning unit, but requires far less maintenance. Many gas fireplaces are also far more efficient than wood-burning and as a result, produce less pollution.

Family Room (Galleria New Home), Clarkston, Michigan | Robert R. Jones HomesGas fireplaces may have a chimney or may vent exhaust gases (mainly water vapor and carbon dioxide) directly outside without a chimney. Others are ventless; there is no flue. If your gas fireplace is vented, the flue or vent should be closed when the fireplace is not in use. Use the same safety precautions with a gas fireplace that you would with any other gas appliance.

There will be a slight delay after turning the switch on before a flame ignites. Flames should ignite gently and silently. If you notice any deviation from this or any gas smell, immediately shut off the switch and report the problem to the gas company.

For more home maintenance advice, go to myhomepress.com for publications on current topics including social media, home design and more.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

Fire Safety for the Holidays

Posted in Around Your Home, Electrical, Holidays, Home Safety, Lifestyle with tags , , , on December 4, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Live TreeMore than 33 million American homes have a natural tree for the holidays (per the U.S. EPA). Nothing compares to the fragrant scent a natural tree provides. The scent and atmosphere provided by a natural Christmas tree brings back cherished memories of Christmases past.

Choosing a Christmas Tree

If you are cutting down your own tree at a Christmas tree farm, you know how fresh the tree is. If you choose a tree at a local Christmas tree lot or a nursery lot, you need to choose a fresh tree by looking for the greenest tree with the fewest brown needles; however, many shipped-to-lot trees have been colored prior to shipping. This is a common practice and will not negatively affect a tree’s freshness.

  • Perform the “drop test”. Raise the Christmas tree a few inches and drop it on the stump end. Fresh, green needles should not drop off. Take hold of a branch and lightly pull your hand toward you allowing the branch to slip through your fingers. Most, if not all of the needles, need to stay in place. The trunk should be sticky to the touch.
  • Tree BaseInspect the tree’s base. Make sure the “handle” (the first eight inches of the stump) is relatively straight. This part of the tree is extremely important when securing the tree in a stand.

Keeping your Christmas Tree Fresh: Water, Water, Water

  • Refresh the tree by making a straight cut, taking one inch off the bottom of the stump and immediately place in water. This will improve water uptake.
  • Place the tree in a stand that can hold at least 1 gallon of water. Expect the tree to take up additional water. Water the tree until water uptake stops.
  • Always keep the base of the tree in water. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will dry out quickly. You don’t need to add anything to regular tap water. Research has shown that plain old water will keep a tree fresh; no additives are necessary.

Christmas Tree Fire Hazards:

  • Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not have lit candles near the tree. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
  • Inspect Christmas tree lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear before putting them on the tree. Only use lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
  • Power, Surge ProtectorDo not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect lights to a power strip equipped with a circuit breaker and surge protection. If you are building a new home or remodeling, determine the most likely spot for your Christmas tree and install a switched outlet. No more crawling behind the tree to turn on Christmas tree lights!
  • Do not leave holiday lights on unattended or overnight.
  • All tree decorations should be non-flammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.

Christmas trees accounted for 230 fires between 2006-2010, resulting in 4 deaths, 21 injuries and more than $17.3 million in property damage (per the National Fire Protection Association). The most common causes of tree fires are shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles. Well-watered trees are not a problem; the drier the tree is, the more likely it is to catch on fire.

Follow these precautions and have a safe and happy holiday.

Preparing Your Home for Winter

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Maintenance, Worth Repeating with tags , , on October 16, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Fall is the time of the year to start thinking about preparing your home for winter. As the temperatures drop, your home will require maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape throughout the winter. Here are some tips to help you prepare your home for winter:

Furnace Inspection:

  • Furnace FilterCall a HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean the ducts.
  • Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly.
  • If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, consider getting one.
  • Set the humidifier to the winter setting.
  • Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.

Get the Fireplace Ready:

  • Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out critters.
  • If the chimney hasn’t been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
  • Buy firewood or chop wood. Store in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
  • Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.

Inspect the Roof, Gutters and Downspouts:

  • Adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
  • Check flashing to ensure that water cannot enter your home.
  • Replace worn shingles.
  • Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
  • Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from you home.

Shingles/Gutter
Check the Exterior:

  • Inspect exterior for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes and seal them.
  • Replace cracked glass in windows. If you replace the entire window, prime and paint any exposed wood.
  • If you have older, non-insulated windows, install the storm windows.

Check the Foundation:

  • Rake away all debris and vegetation from the foundation.
  • Seal entry points to keep small animals from crawling under your home.
  • Tuck point or seal foundation cracks. Mice can slip through space as thin as a dime.
  • Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.

Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors:

  • Smoke Alarm/Detector Buy smoke detector batteries and change them when daylight savings ends.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and water heater.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work.

Prevent Plumbing Freezes:

  • Locate water main in the event you need to shut it off.
  • Drain all garden hoses. Turn off water to outside hose bibs.
  • Have your irrigation system blown out and shut off.
  • Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
  • If you go on vacation, leave the heat on set to at least 55 degrees.

While these tips may seem like common sense and part of your fall routine, it is easy to become preoccupied with weekend football games and other fall activities; therefore, forgetting the necessary maintenance.

Crime Prevention Month Tips to Protect Your Home

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Safety with tags , , on October 9, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Owning a home is the most valued long-term investment most Americans ever make. And owning your home is much more than a material asset, homeownership builds a sense of stability, pride, accomplishment and peace of mind. So protecting your home—and your loved ones that live in it—is a top priority for most families.

During Crime Prevention Month in October, here are some tips from the National Crime Prevention Council (www.ncpc.org) to keep your home and your family safe from crime.

Inside your home:

  • Alarm (pippalou | morgueFile.com)

    Alarm | Photo credit: pippalou | morgueFile.com

    If you have an alarm system, don’t write your passcode on or near the alarm keypad.

  • Install key locks, pins or other secure locks on every window and sliding glass door.
  • Secure windows and sliding doors with secondary blocking devices such as a stick or broom handle.
  • Use anti-lift devices to prevent windows and glass doors from being lifted out.
  • Use high quality Grade-1 or -2 locks with a bolt that extends at least one inch into the door frame to resist prying open or forceful entry.
  • Use automatic timers to switch indoors lights on and off if you’re going to be away from home overnight.
  • Keep a home inventory of valuables including serial numbers, pictures and sales receipts and keep a copy of the inventory in a safe place somewhere other than your home.

Outside your home:

  • Padlock (mconnors | morgueFile.com)

    Padlock | Photo credit: mconnors | morgueFile.com

    Lock gate latches, garage doors and sheds with high-security, laminated padlocks.

  • Keep your yard, porch, garage doors, pathways and entrances well-lit at night, either with permanent lighting or motion-detecting lights that turn on when someone comes within a certain distance.
  • Trim plants and shrubs that could serve as hiding places for criminals away from windows and doors.
  • Cut back tree limbs that could provide a way for thieves to climb into second-story or higher windows.
  • Display alarm company signs and decals on the windows and lawn.
  • Don’t hide a key outside your home. Leave a key with a trusted family member, friend or neighbor instead.
  • If you’re going to be away, stop your mail and newspaper delivery, or ask a neighbor to pick them up for you.
  • Ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway while you’re away.
  • For items that need to be left out in the open, such as grills and bicycles, use a tarp to hide them from view and securely lock them to a stationary point such as a railing or post.

For more information about home safety, visit nahb.org/forconsumers.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

Playing it Safe While Using a Ladder

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Safety, Worth Repeating with tags , , , on October 2, 2013 by Pat Hansen

With the advent of fall, comes the need to do fall chores. Gutter cleaning, window washing, removing tree branches and limbs on the roof, can all be hazardous without following some simple safety rules for using a ladder:

  • If you feel tired or dizzy, or are prone to losing your balance, stay off the ladder.
  • Do not use ladders in high winds or storms.Ladder safety
  • Wear clean slip-resistant shoes. Shoes with leather soles are not appropriate for ladder use since they are not considered sufficiently slip-resistant.
  • Before using a ladder, inspect it to confirm it is in good working condition.
  • Ladders with loose or missing parts should be rejected.
  • The ladder you select must be the right size for the job.
  • The Duty Rating of the ladder (maximum weight it can carry) must be greater than the total weight of the climber, tools, supplies and other objects placed upon the ladder.
  • The length of the ladder must be sufficient so that the climber does not have to stand on the top rung or step.
  • When the ladder is set-up for use, it must be placed on firm, level ground and without any type of slippery condition present at either the base or top support points.
  • Only one person at a time should be permitted on a ladder—unless the ladder is specifically designed for more than one climber, i.e. a trestle ladder.
  • Ladders must not be placed in front of closed doors that can open toward the ladder. The door should be locked or blocked open.
  • Never jump or slide down from a ladder or climb more than one rung/step at a time.
  • Face the ladder when climbing up and down; keep your body centered between both side rails.
  • Don’t get too ambitious and over extend your reach. Make sure you keep your weight evenly distributed.

Holiday decorating is just around the corner and many families often use ladders to spread holiday cheer to the highest places, such as roofs and rooftops, trying to get those decorations just right. Unfortunately, as helpful as they are, people often underestimate the dangers associated with ladders – more than 163,000 people make emergency room visits every year due to ladder accidents.

Playing It Safe During An Electrical Storm

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Safety, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Worth Repeating with tags , on August 21, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Proper storm safety measures are vital to avoiding injury from lightning strikes during a thunderstorm. When a thunderstorm roars, go indoors.  As the thunderstorm approaches, residents should take several measures to avoid injury or damage from a lightning strike, including:

  • Lightning DamageUnplug appliances. To avoid damage from a lightning strike, unplug all appliances – even those that are connected to a surge protector. Surge protectors are often ineffective in the event of a direct or near-direct lightning strike.
  • Move cars into the garage or away from trees. If a garage is available, park the car(s) inside to avoid damage from hail, downed tree limbs or wind-blown signs and debris.  If no garage is available try to relocate the car to a location that is out in the open to prevent damage from downed trees or limbs.
  • Stay away from water and pipes.  If a lightning bolt strikes nearby, the electricity can travel through water pipes.  Prevent electrocution, by avoiding the sink, toilet, shower and bath tub.
  • Don’t use the telephone.  Lightning strikes can send a surge of electricity traveling through phone lines. Be sure to have a fully- charged cell phone available.
  • Stay away from windows.  There have been many cases involving people who have been struck by lightning while standing near a window.  A downed tree or limb could come crashing through a window, resulting in serious injury for anyone standing nearby.
  • Remain in an interior room during a severe thunderstorm. Some severe thunderstorm systems have been known to produce tornadoes. Bring children and pets into an interior room or hallway. The goal should be to place as many walls as possible between the residents and the outdoors.
  • Have a battery-operated radio or TV within arm’s reach. This will enable residents to stay informed about any life-threatening developments, such as a tornado

If you think your house was struck by lightning:

  • Make sure everyone is accounted for and immediately evacuate the house.
  • Lightning DamageCheck all around the interior and exterior to make sure that it did not start a fire. If you smell or see smoke, use your cell phone to call 911. The fire department is dispatched in all cases of lightning strikes. The fire department will assess the damage and use thermal imaging cameras to make sure there are no fires within the walls.

If your house was struck by lightning:

  • Call the insurance company.  Check with the insurance agent before you discard any items you plan to claim as damaged. Find out what is covered and what is needed to file a claim.
  • Call an electrician.  Have the electrician check the entire house including all the appliances, wall outlets, outside receptacles, attic fans, doorbell and garage door opener. Damage may be random; some items may be harmed, others may be spared.

According to the National Weather Service, more than 100,000 thunderstorms occur each year in the U.S., with lightning striking more than 30 million points on the ground. The chances of a U.S. home being struck by lightning is one in two hundred, and the insurance industry estimates 6.5% of all property/casualty claims are related to lightning strikes.

Safe Home Tips While on Vacation

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Worth Repeating with tags , , , on July 30, 2013 by Pat Hansen

The anticipation and excitement of an upcoming vacation can distract you from considering the risks of leaving your home unprotected. It pays to take precautions before you leave on vacation.  Creating a checklist ahead of time takes a bit of planning but is worth the effort and will increase your peace of mind while you travel.

The Insurance Information Institute reports that the majority of residential break-ins occur during the months of July and August.  Experts in home security say that the key to keeping your home secure while on vacation is to make sure your home is the least appealing target on your street.

By following the tips below, you can make your home harder to break into, and give yourself peace of mind that you have taken all necessary precautions.

  • Stay Quiet

While using personal pages on the Internet may be a convenient way to keep in touch with friends, sharing your itinerary can cause problems while you are away from home. Show some caution when you talk about your trip.  Your Blog isn’t the best place to announce that you will be away from home.

Be aware of who is around when you discuss your trip. Make sure that other members of your family are discreet, too.  The less information you put out there, the less likely it is to reach the wrong ears and eyes.

  • Lock Up

Before you leave on vacation be sure you physically secure and check all windows and doors. This seems obvious, but it is easy to forget. Locking your home makes it less attractive to burglars; if you don’t make it easy, there is a better chance that when you get home, your home will be in the same condition as you left it.

  • Unplug Electronics

Turning off your garage door is an effective way to keep thieves from opening it with a universal remote.

Don’t leave a portable GPS in your car when you use the long-term parking at the airport. It will alert thieves that you are not at home and may give them a convenient map to your home.

  • Maintaining Appearances

If your home is obviously uninhabited, you may be at risk of becoming a target for a burglar. Remember . . . an occupied home looks lived in. Lights go on and off, and cars come and go. When you’re away, everything stops. To help create the illusion that the residence is still occupied, invest in timers that turn on the interior lights for a few hours every night. If you can get a neighbor to take out your garbage and put away the cans after the pick up, it’s another way to send the message that everything is proceeding normally at your home.

Paying someone to keep the yard mowed while you are away is a good idea if you will be gone for a significant amount of time in the spring or summer. Parking a car in your driveway can also make it appear as though someone is home. If you keep your blinds or window treatments open when you are home, be sure to do the same while you are away.

  • Mail Delivery

Piles of mail and newspapers can make it obvious that you are away. While you can temporarily stop mail and newspaper delivery, the fewer people who know that you are away, the better.  Ask a friend or a neighbor to pick up mail and newspapers, daily, to prevent telltale piles from accumulating.

  • Protecting  Your Home

A burglar alarm, while not foolproof, helps secure your home. While alarm systems are expensive, the Insurance Information Institute reports that a sophisticated alarm system can result in insurance discounts of 15 to 20 percent.  If you don’t have an alarm system, installing deadbolts on doors and windows can make it more difficult for thieves to enter your home.

The Insurance Information Institute also recommends turning your computer off and locking up important documents to prevent burglars from accessing financial and personal information. Placing expensive jewelry and small electronic devices in a safe or lock-box before leaving home will help you avoid the theft of your most valuable possessions.

  • Consider Hiring a House or Pet Sitter

The best way to make sure your house is safe while you’re gone is to have someone you trust stay in it while you’re away. You may be lucky enough to have a tidy and conscientious relative who will move in temporarily and water the plants, feed the pets and pick up the mail and newspapers. If not, there are services you can use for house sitting and pet sitting while you’re away. This can be a pricey option, but it’s a solution that touches all the bases.

  • Returning from Vacation

When you return from your trip, be sure to inspect your home immediately. Look for signs of entry or missing items. If you notice anything amiss, be sure to call the police immediately. It’s a good idea to wait outside the home until the police arrive and when they do, be sure to allow them to collect fingerprints. Be sure not to allow anyone to walk on the lawn until the police have left.

How To Keep Wasps Away From Your Home

Posted in Home Safety, Pest Control with tags , on March 20, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Wasps can be a nuisance to humans, but they do benefit the yard and garden because they prey on other insects that can destroy landscaping. However, if you are allergic to their venom, or if they get too close for comfort, wasps can become a problem. While there are no surefire techniques to prevent wasps from building a nest, you can take steps to discourage nest building near your home this spring:

  • Wasp (Mem666 | morgueFile.com)

    Photo credit: Mem666 | morgueFile.com

    Search your home for open entry points. Check for cracks in door frames and window frames, unsealed vents and torn screens. Paper wasps can build nests inside your walls, so use a sealant to close off all possible means of access.

  • Buy a garbage can with an airtight lid. Wasps will forage for food anywhere, and if discarded food is easy for them to find, they are likely to build nests nearby.
  • Wipe any spills and clean up any crumbs after eating outdoors. If wasps find anything worth eating on your patio, they will come back. In late summer and early fall, the food preference for wasps turns to the sweet. Their behavior is also more aggressive. Open cans of pop, fruit juice, fallen apples beneath fruit trees and other sweet food sources will attract wasps. Remove any fallen fruit rotting on the ground.
  • Place decoy wasp nests around your home. You can buy them at a gardening supply store or online. Wasps tend to avoid other wasp nests, so the fake ones will trick them into staying away. Decoy nests are a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to using pesticides.
  • Hang clothes dryer sheets around your home. Dryer sheets seem to repel wasps.
Wasp Nest (DuBoix | morgueFile.com)

Photo credit: DuBoix | morgueFile.com

If you feel you must spray store-bought chemical pesticides around your home, keep pets and small children away from the areas you spray. Protect your eyes, mouth and skin from the chemicals with goggles, mask and gloves.

If you are stung, the wound should be washed with water which helps remove some of the venom, and treated with an anti-sting product or antihistamine cream which can reduce the pain and spread of the venom.

If the sting is in the throat or mouth, or if an allergic reaction occurs, seek medical treatment immediately. Anyone with a history of hypersensitive reactions should have a sting emergency kit available. High-risk persons should wear a medical alert bracelet.

Fireplace Safety Tips

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Safety with tags , on January 23, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Galleria Plan Family Room | New Homes in Clarkston, Michigan | Robert R. Jones HomesFireplaces, whether they are wood-burning or gas, are both fashionable and functional additions to many homes. Families gather around decorated hearths for holiday celebrations as they build lifelong memories. During the cooler winter months, fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances are often used as primary heat sources in homes.

But sadly, fireplace safety can be neglected, sometimes with tragic results. Everyone has seen the news stories about homes burned to the ground and lives lost due to improperly disposed-of fireplace ashes. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), heating fires account for 36% of residential home fires in rural areas every year.

Here are some tips to make sure your fireplace remains a safe, enjoyable feature of your family’s home:

  • Have your chimney Chimney | Lot 400, Manors of Deerwood | New Homes in Clarkston, Michigan | Robert R. Jones Homesthoroughly cleaned once a year. Flammable residue that accumulates in the flue can lead to fires in the chimney, and cracks or gaps in the flue can decrease the draft required both for combustion and to carry toxic gases away from your home. You can find a certified chimney specialist by visiting the Chimney Safety Institute of America website (www.csia.org).
  • Cover the top of your chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester, and keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris. Also cut away any branches that are hanging above the chimney.
  • Never use flammable liquids to start a fire, or burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace. Use only seasoned hardwood, non-seasoned (or green) wood tends to smoke more and burn less efficiently, and can leave significantly more resin and soot in your chimney. Never burn any part of fir or pine trees in a fireplace. The sap can explode, and the needles can ignite quickly which could send sparks into the room or into the chimney where creosote deposits could catch fire.
  • Use either a metal mesh screen or glass doors – or both – as a barrier between the fireplace and hearth. If you have glass doors, leave them open while burning a fire so that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney. Always keep the mesh screen closed when a fire is burning to keep embers or sparks from getting into the room.

    Fireplace + Metal Screen (mconnors | morgueFile.com)

    Photo credit: mconnors | morgueFile.com

  • Never leave a fire unattended, and make sure the fire is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house. Douse and saturate ashes with water, and never empty ash directly into a trash can. Place completely cooled ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the container at least 10 feet away from any building.

You can find more fire safety tips on USFA’s website at www.usfa.fema.gov.

Taking these steps will help to ensure that the time you spend around your fireplace is enjoyable, and your family and home is safe.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

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