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Safely Away From Home

Summer is synonymous with vacation.  Travel, be it for a weekend or a month often means vacancy at home.  Having a trusted neighbor or family friend periodically check on the home can also be helpful in preventing any problems. Don’t leave your home unprotected.  Here are a few safety tips to be sure your home is ready for your vacation too.

Keep it Looking Occupied – An empty house is an invitation for burglars.  To avoid leaving your house looking empty;

  • Park your car inside the garage – it’s even a great idea to pack the car in the garage.  Nothing says vacant like packing luggage in the driveway for all to see.
  • Stop the newspaper and mail (or ask a neighbor to pick them up).
  • Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway.
  • Install a motion-activated sensor on an outdoor floodlight.
  • Put at least one light on a timer.
  • Make sure your lawn stays trimmed.

Plumbing & Electrical Precautions – beyond the expense factor for utilities, not protecting your appliances could also leave to damage and unexpected costs.

  • Unplug small appliances and electronic devices.
  • Put the water heater in vacation mode.
  • Turn off water valves to the dishwasher, washing machine and all sinks.
  • Set the thermostat to a temperature that is less comfortable, but still protects your plants, pets and furniture.
  • Electronics should be plugged into a surge protector.
  • Install and test a battery backup on the Sump Pump if you have one.

General Preparation Tips – Don’t forget the simple items before you leave.

  • Make sure your smoke detectors are working properly.
  • Leave your emergency contact information with a neighbor.
  • Run your garbage disposer with a half cup of vinegar and some water.
  • Toss out any food that will go bad before you return from vacation.
  • Take out the kitchen trash, or any other trash that could get smelly.

Lastly, don’t rush.  Enjoy your time away and make the most of the memories you’ll create!

Deck Safety

It’s summer here in Metro Detroit and that means more time outside enjoying the sunshine.  Be it for a back yard BBQ or enjoying your morning coffee, deck safety is important for every homeowner and we’re here to help. Maintenance is much more than cleaning your deck surface.  It means evaluating the structure and making any repairs or adjustments that might be needed.  Here’s a great checklist to get you started.

1 – Search for split or decaying wood. Check several different areas of the deck to be sure the wood is still sound, including the ledger board (where the deck attaches to the house and a common source of deck failure), support posts and joists under the deck, deck boards, railings and stairs. Look for soft, spongy areas in wood that can indicate insect damage or decay.

2 –  Test railings and banisters. Assure the security of these key pieces of the deck by gently pushing on them to assure they are firmly attached with no “give” that could indicate failure. Then, get the yard stick out. Most codes require a 36” high railing (and usually encourage 42” high railings) with rails placed no more than 4” inches apart (measured from the inside of the rails) to keep small children and pets from squeezing through.

3 –  Check your fasteners. Over time, fasteners may “pop” from wood, loosen or even corrode. Check nails, screws or anchors and reinforce or replace anything that looks suspicious.

4 – Step carefully. Check each step to make certain of security and lack of decay. If an area behind the stair treads is open, this opening should be no more than 4” high. A fast tip is to also keep stair pathways clear of planters, décor, toys and other items that can present a tripping hazard.

5 –  Clean up debris. Make it a priority to clean away leaves, branches or other debris from your deck. When left in place, these can be slippery and promote mildew. If you’re already seeing mildew on the deck, or the deck coating has worn away, now is the time to clean and apply a new waterproof coating.

It’s also a great time to check the everyday items ON the deck, like your grill, furnishings, storage and lighting.

 

For a complete 10-point consumer safety checklist and more deck safety tips from NADRA, click HERE.  The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the necessity for regular inspection and maintenance of existing decks and proper installation of new decks. For more information visit www.NADRA.org 

Horrible Hornets

Hornets are among the most troublesome pests that homeowners can encounter. Their stings can be extremely painful—even deadly for those who are allergic to their venom. If you find hornets on your property, take these steps to help get rid of them safely.

Eliminate protein sources. Hornets are attracted to protein-rich food sources such as pet food and compost. Don’t give hornets free snacks! Keep your pet’s food in sealable containers, put compost materials in a bin and securely fasten garbage can lids.

NEVER swat a hornet. While it’s tempting to stomp on a hornet or swing at it with a fly swatter, a threatened insect will release a pheromone to warn other hornets of danger. This could cause them to attack you as a group.

Vacuum hornets indoors. If a hornet makes its way into your home, vacuum it up. Even if it survives, it will succumb to dehydration or starvation after a few days of being trapped in your vacuum container.

Kill the nest. You can exterminate a colony of hornets using aerosol insecticides developed for killing these pests. Wait until evening when most of the hornets are inside the nest and less active. As a precaution, put on a jacket, long pants tucked into socks, a hat and gloves. Spray the nest’s entrance first, then totally wet the nest with the insecticide. Most sprays kill hornets on contact, but repeat the next day if you notice activity. After about two days of no activity, the nest can be removed. Hornets nests can be difficult and dangerous to remove. If you don’t feel comfortable removing the nest, call a professional exterminator.

Keep them away for good. Once you have removed the nest, wipe down the area with an enzyme cleaner. This destroys the hornets’ pheromones, which could otherwise attract new hornets to the spot. Another option: Put up insect mesh to deter hornets from nest-prone spots such as under household eaves.

Be sure to review our other articles for great information on other summer specific pests & maintenance!

Simple Summer Tasks

Whether you’re cooling off indoors or working on your tan, take the time to perform some simple, routine home maintenance. Rising temperatures and sunny days make summer an ideal season for getting work done around the house. You’ll have a safer home if you catch problems and wear-and-tear before they become hazards.

 Keeping Cool Inside

Energy efficiency is a top priority when electricity bills climb as high as the temperatures outside. Hopefully you’ve had your air conditioning system checked in the spring, as repairmen are often busy in the summer and you may have to sweat it out until your appointment.

Ceiling fans provide an energy-efficient way of circulating cool air. Dust them if needed and balance any wobbly blades by tightening loose screws. For additional energy efficiency, check windows and doors for air leaks and seal with weather stripping or caulk as needed. You’re paying for the cool air, so take steps to be sure it’s not escaping outdoors.

Home Exterior Care and Landscaping

Take advantage of the warm weather and wash the outside of your windows and clean the siding. While it might be tempting to use a pressure washer, a garden hose is best to avoid potentially damaging the exterior of your home. Apply a coat of fresh paint if needed, and repair any damaged vinyl or aluminum siding.

Be aware of termites while you’re outside inspecting your home. Termites can easily go undetected until significant damage has been done. Look for telltale signs like flaking wood or mud buildup and tunneling systems in the exterior wood of your home. Professional pest control inspections are recommended if you have any suspicions of possible infestation.

Well-tended landscaping and a trim and tidy house are as welcoming to guests as the smells of a barbeque. Garden beds look their best when mulched and weeded. Summer annuals can be induced to produce more flowers and bloom longer when you deadhead them. Removing spent flowers also prevents the plant from going to seed. Check garden plants, trees, and shrubs for insect infestations. Unhealthy plants should be removed so that others may thrive.

Lush green grass is of course desirable; however, it is not always realistic or water-efficient. Encourage healthy grass growth with regular mowing, but remember: Keeping grass cut longer in the summer months will prevent roots from drying out as quickly.

Grass and plants should be watered in the morning to allow the water to soak through the soil throughout the day in order to completely nourish their root systems. Check to see if your municipality has water conservation restrictions before watering your lawn or garden.

Trees provide shady ambience and should be well cared for to avoid potential damage to your home. Keep their branches pruned and at a safe distance from your home to avoid storm-related damage. Inspect trees for signs of decay, such as cracks or hollowed limbs, and keep branches clear of your home and power lines. Arborists or tree care professionals can assist with the cutting and removal of large or high limbs.

Also, before planting additional trees and shrubs in your yard, take into consideration the plant’s size when mature and whether or not roots might intrude upon underground pipes or paved surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways.

Garage Upkeep

Hazardous materials such as paint and solvents should be disposed of properly. Don’t store heat-sensitive or combustible materials in the garage, as the temperature will be rising throughout the season. Inspect the floor for grease spots from leaking car fluids, and have your car serviced promptly if you find any.

If you have children, instruct them not to go in the garage unaccompanied. Store your hand tools and power tools behind a lock and key. Fertilizers, weed-killers, and pesticides should be stored out of a child’s reach or behind a locked cabinet. You might also consider organic gardening, which employs nontoxic alternatives to these poisonous chemicals.

Driveways And Walkways

Inspect the pavement for cracks and holes, and remedy them. This goes a long way in preventing accidental slips, trips, and falls. It also works to avoid larger repairs or resurfacing in the future. If you see weeds popping up between cracks in the pavement, resist the urge to pull them up. You’ll remove the upper part of the weed, but the root system will remain intact and new growth will return within a few weeks. For a cost-effective and chemical free solution, boil water in a kettle, carefully carry the kettle outside, and pour the water on any weeds to kill them off for the season.