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!
With winter coming on to cool much of North America, it’s worthwhile to address a potential hazard that arises with increased use of fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces and water heaters: carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced by the combustion of fuels such as natural gas, oil, and propane in devices including furnaces, water heaters, and stoves. These items are normally designed to vent the CO to the outside, but harmful interior levels of CO can result from incomplete combustion of fuel, improper installation, or blockages, leaks or cracks in the venting systems. Very high levels of CO can lead to incapacitation or death, with victims sometimes never having been aware they were being poisoned.
Homeowners can take action against potential carbon monoxide poisoning by taking the following steps:
Never use gas stoves or ovens to heat the home, even temporarily.
Have all fuel-burning appliances professionally inspected annually, preferably before the start of the cold weather season when heaters and furnaces are first used.
These appliances include gas stoves and ovens, furnaces and heaters, water heaters and gas clothes dryers.
All such devices should be properly installed and vented to the outside.
If repairs are necessary, be sure they are performed by a qualified technician.
Always use the proper fuel specified for the device.
Have flues and chimneys for gas fireplaces inspected regularly for cracks, leaks, and blockages that may allow a buildup of CO to occur.
Do not start a vehicle in a closed garage, or idle the engine in the garage even when the garage door is open.
Gasoline-powered generators and charcoal grills must never be used indoors.
Purchase a CO detector (either battery operated, hard wired or plug-in) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper location and installation. Installation of working CO detectors in residential properties is now required by law in most states.
Learn what to do if the CO alarm activates. If anyone in the home experiences symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, or confusion, everyone should leave immediately and seek medical attention. If no symptoms are felt, open doors and windows immediately and shut off all fuel-burning devices that may be potential sources of CO.
Enjoy the comfort and safety of home this winter and all year long.
Any home can have a radon problem – old or new homes, well-sealed or drafty homes, homes with or without basements. Health Canada estimates that 1 in 14 homes in Canada has an elevated level of radon. Prolonged exposure to unsafe levels of radon can increase the risk of lung cancer; in fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Lung cancer caused by avoidable radon exposure is preventable, but only if radon issues are detected and mitigated prior to prolonged exposure in homes and buildings. There is real risk in not knowing if a home has a high level of radon.
WHAT IS RADON?
Radon is a naturally occurring odourless, colorless, radioactive gas formed by the ongoing decay of uranium in soil, rocks, sediments, and even well or ground water. While radon that escapes into the atmosphere is not harmful, dangerously high concentrations can build up indoors, exposing occupants to possible health risks.
HOW DOES RADON GET INTO A HOME?
Radon can migrate into the home in several ways. Openings or cracks in basement walls, foundations or floors are common avenues. Sumps, basement drains, and spaces between gas or water fittings can also allow radon into the structure. Other entry points can include gaps in suspended floors and cavities within walls.
HOW CAN I MAKE SURE MY CLIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES AREN’T AT RISK?
We encourage homeowners to add radon testing to the home inspection process. Your Pillar To Post Home Inspector will set up the monitoring equipment in the home and report on the results. If an elevated level of radon is detected, steps can be taken to reduce the concentration to or below acceptable levels inside virtually any home. This can include a relatively simple setup such as a collection system with a radon vent pipe, which prevents radon from entering the home in the first place. Professional mitigation services can provide solutions for a home’s specific conditions.
Contact Pillar To Post to schedule radon testing when you book your next home inspection.
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.