How to put out a fire at home before it starts

How to put out a fire at home before it startsFor many of us, the aesthetics of our home –– a colourful garden, new furniture or trendy appliances –– often become our primary focus. But this can leave little time for unseen elements that can become a safety hazard.

Something overlooked like a loose or frayed cord can spark a house fire, and this happens most frequently during the winter months, according to the Canadian Red Cross.

It doesn’t take much for a fire to start in your home, but it doesn’t take much to prevent one. That’s why around this time of year, it’s crucial to take small, precautionary measures that will keep your family out of harm’s way. Here are four easy steps for a fire-free home:

  1. Develop a fire escape plan. Should a fire occur, it’s important to evacuate the home as quickly as possible. Creating a fire escape plan and practicing that plan twice a year will help ensure the safety of your loved ones in the event of a fire.
  2. Check smoke detectors frequently. A functioning smoke detector can be the difference between a false alarm and a life-threatening scenario. Install them on every level of the house and take the time to test them monthly, replacing batteries at least twice a year; daylight saving time always serves as a good reminder.
  3. Store and recycle batteries the right way. Once you have changed the batteries in your devices, be sure to recycle the old ones. Used batteries that are disposed of or stored incorrectly or damaged can be a safety hazard. Keep your home and the environment safe by recycling all your old batteries. Call2Recycle Canada has more than 8,000 drop-off locations across the country, so one is bound to be close by. You can visit their website at call2recycle.ca and plug in your postal code to find one closest to you.
  4. Pay attention to detail. Have an eye for the little things. Make sure your home’s heating sources are clean, as many house fires are started by poorly maintained furnaces or stoves, or chimneys with buildup. Check wiring and cords and fix or replace any frayed extension cords, exposed wires or loose plugs. Finally, make sure to store combustible materials in open areas and away from heat sources.

Equip your home and family for safety

Most Canadians are under-protected and unprepared when it comes to fire and carbon monoxide safety, according to a nationwide survey conducted by First Alert. However, Fire Prevention Month in October is a great time to prepare a safety checklist to ensure your home and family are protected from the threats of smoke, fire and CO.

Help protect against the “silent killer.” An odourless and colorless gas, carbon monoxide is the number one cause of accidental poisoning and it can only be detected with an alarm. Yet more than a third of Canadian homes do not have a CO alarm. Consider hassle-free protection by installing 10-year sealed battery alarms that eliminate the need for battery replacement. Check all alarms monthly using the “test” button.

Install smoke alarms. Nearly one in five two-storey homes have just one smoke alarm installed. To secure the highest level of protection, install smoke and CO alarms inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For ultimate home safety, select combination models, such as the First Alert 10-year Battery Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarm, which features a slim, contemporary design that mounts unobtrusively on a wall or ceiling.

Be prepared to fight small flames. Beyond alarms, having fire extinguishers — and knowing how to use them — is an important part of maintaining a safe home for you and your family. Place extinguishers in convenient locations on every level of the home, in the kitchen and in the garage.

Practice your emergency escape plan. Research shows that of the 56 per cent of us with an emergency escape plan, only one in five practice it twice a year. Make sure to involve everyone in your household in creating a plan and practice it at least twice every year. As part of this plan, equip second-floor bedrooms with escape ladders and discuss how to use them. Identify two ways out of each room and a meeting place outside. Emphasize that once at the predesignated meeting area, everyone must wait until officials clear your home for safe re-entry.

The secret to organizing your home

For those trading in their outdoor activities for some indoor fun, it’s time to get ready for all the extra time you’ll be spending inside. Here are some key tips to start getting your home organized this fall:  Declutter and repeat. Start by going through drawers, cupboards and closets and arrange items using boxes, baskets, containers and bins. Not only does this create a tidy space, but it makes it easier to find items. Next, either shred old papers that have been piling up or organize them using file folders. A colour-coded filing system works best — think green for your finances, blue for anything house related and orange for personal files. Lastly, hide cords using ties, boxes or hooks to instantly create a clear space.  Use the walls. Think of all the various items that can double as décor and storage that go up on walls in your main living spaces. Purchase a coat rack to ensure coats aren’t tossed over the banister anymore, put up floating shelves to store books and various knick-knacks, and install hanging canvas bins to store toys or scarves and toques. In closets and laundry rooms, add shoe racks and a variety of hooks to hang anything from keys and umbrellas to mops and brooms.  Give your items some second-hand love. This time of year, we’re usually shuffling all things summer into storage. But before you pack up last season, take time to sort through clothes, furniture and décor. Make a keep, donate and recycle pile to maximize storage space and eliminate clutter. But don’t stop there — go through other items that can be recycled, such as used batteries that pile up because you’re not quite sure what to do with them. Used batteries can be recycled to reclaim materials that can be used to make new items like golf clubs and silverware. Call2Recycle has more than 8,000 drop-off locations across the country, so one is bound to be close by. Find one nearest to you online at call2recycle.ca.  www.newscanada.comFor those trading in their outdoor activities for some indoor fun, it’s time to get ready for all the extra time you’ll be spending inside. Here are some key tips to start getting your home organized this fall:

Declutter and repeat. Start by going through drawers, cupboards and closets and arrange items using boxes, baskets, containers and bins. Not only does this create a tidy space, but it makes it easier to find items. Next, either shred old papers that have been piling up or organize them using file folders. A colour-coded filing system works best — think green for your finances, blue for anything house related and orange for personal files. Lastly, hide cords using ties, boxes or hooks to instantly create a clear space.

Use the walls. Think of all the various items that can double as décor and storage that go up on walls in your main living spaces. Purchase a coat rack to ensure coats aren’t tossed over the banister anymore, put up floating shelves to store books and various knick-knacks, and install hanging canvas bins to store toys or scarves and toques. In closets and laundry rooms, add shoe racks and a variety of hooks to hang anything from keys and umbrellas to mops and brooms.

Give your items some second-hand love. This time of year, we’re usually shuffling all things summer into storage. But before you pack up last season, take time to sort through clothes, furniture and décor. Make a keep, donate and recycle pile to maximize storage space and eliminate clutter. But don’t stop there — go through other items that can be recycled, such as used batteries that pile up because you’re not quite sure what to do with them. Used batteries can be recycled to reclaim materials that can be used to make new items like golf clubs and silverware. Call2Recycle has more than 8,000 drop-off locations across the country, so one is bound to be close by. Find one nearest to you online at call2recycle.ca.

Fresh ways to make over furniture

With more time indoors on your hands thanks to cooler weather, you finally resolve to refinish that forgotten wooden chair that’s been tucked away in the garage all summer.

Whether you’re only giving the chair a fresh coat of paint or refinishing it from scratch, be sure to protect yourself and those around you in the process. Keep these tips in mind before beginning a new refinishing project.

  1. Read the label. Follow all safety and usage instructions on the label, including how to dispose of any leftover products.
  2. Work in an area with lots of ventilation. Refinish old furniture outdoors, if weather permits. If you work inside, open the windows to make sure there is plenty of ventilation.
  3. Do not use sanders, heat guns or blowlamps. This can create dust and fumes that may contain lead.
  4. Use a chemical paint stripper. Ideally, choose one with a paste that can be applied with a brush. Paint strippers contain substances that may be harmful, so use them carefully.
  5. Keep children and pregnant women away from the work area. This will help ensure their safety.
  6. Always wear safety glasses, gloves, and a good-quality breathing mask. The label will provide more detailed information on personal safety equipment you should use. This is essential to protect you and your family.
  7. Store materials properly. Make sure that you store refinishing chemicals in a dry, cool place. Keep any hazardous material away from children’s reach.
  8. Dispose of refinishing waste materials properly. It can be dangerous to throw away rags and certain other materials that have been used for refinishing furniture. Aside from potentially starting a fire, they can also cause serious damage to the environment.

Preparing your home’s exterior for the fall

Spruce up your home’s curb appeal with a fresh coat of paint. Not only does a paint touch-up maximize the first impression, it protects your investment from the elements. Follow these five easy steps to increase durability and create maximum wow factor.

  1. First, make sure to inspect the exterior of your home and identify any problem areas. Look for things like peeling paint, cracked caulking and water damage. Pay particular attention to your roof’s peaks, since sun exposure makes them more susceptible to wear and tear. Correct any issues before painting to avoid a spotty finish.
  2. Make sure to prepare the painting surface(s) to ensure a professional-looking finish. Sand, scrape and pressure-clean the areas you wish to paint to ensure uniformity.
  3. Pick colours that pop. Everyone admires an entrance that draws the eye, and there’s no better way to create big impact with just a little effort than with paint. A bold colour for your front door gives your home personality and creates a lasting impression. For a clean, vibrant look, I’ve picked Para Paints’ Jadestone 116F (pictured).
  4. Ensure that you have the proper tools and products for the job. Get yourself an angular tip brush, paint scraper, rags and a durable, top-quality paint. Be sure to choose a paint that can be applied and cures well in cold weather. A reliable choice is Para Paints’ new ultra-low temp velvet or semi-gloss paints. These products can be applied at 2°C, lengthening the fall painting season. They’re weather resistant, dry quickly and come in a wide range of colours.
  5. Now comes the easy part— the painting. For best results, apply a primer before starting, followed by an even application of paint. You can complete your refresh in one coat without issues, but consider two coats if the old paint is very dry or if the surface is very porous.

After applying the finishing touches, let the paint dry for a day or two and you’ll have a home that’s beautiful, inviting and resilient.

Scott McGillivray is the host of the hit HGTV series Income Property and Moving the McGillivrays, a real estate investor, contractor, author and educator.

Staying safe during home renovations

The first back-to-school sale catches you by surprise. Where did the summer go?  With the return of shorter days and cooler temperatures, perhaps there are some neglected renovation projects that you can finally tackle.

Even if it’s only painting the kitchen, here are a few tips to keep you and your family safe:

  • Is there asbestos in your house? If you are planning renovations and your home has building materials already installed that you think may contain asbestos — like insulation, exterior siding, floor or ceiling tiles — contact a trained and qualified asbestos abatement professional. They can test for and remove asbestos before you begin the renovations. Never try to remove building materials that may contain asbestos yourself. If left undisturbed, there are no significant health risks from asbestos.
  • Understand what you’re using. Whether it’s paint, caulking or even window cleaner, use chemical products as directed. Follow all safety and usage instructions on the label, including how to dispose of anything left over.
  • Be sure to pick up gloves, a mask and a pair of safety glasses. The label of the product will provide more detailed information on personal safety equipment you should use. This is essential to protect you and your family.
  • Keep all chemicals away from children. Keep all household chemical products safely stored where kids cannot see or reach them.
  • Make sure there is plenty of ventilation during painting or varnishing projects, or when installing wall-to-wall carpets using glues or adhesives.

Buying or Selling a home? Now is a good time for both.

Buying or selling a home? Now is a good time for bothThe second busiest season for buying and selling homes is upon us, but what is it about autumn that causes an upswing in real estate activity?

According to Patricia Verge, president of the Ontario Real Estate Association, a variety of factors may be responsible for the increase in sales. “Much like spring, fall offers a great climate in which to show your home. Also, many buyers are back from summer holidays and getting back to business.”

Some of the benefits for buying a home in the fall include:

• More choices – There is a wider selection of homes available during this period so that you can visit a wide variety of open houses.

• Good weather – Mild temperatures make moving much easier. Assessing the quality of a home’s exterior is less complicated when it’s not raining or snowing.

• Tax breaks – If you purchase a home before the New Year, you can claim deductions on your 2015 taxes.

Some of the benefits for selling a home in the fall include:

• Climate – Mild temperatures and beautiful fall colours create the perfect setting for showing a home.

• More time – Come fall, people tend to settle back into routines, allowing a better dedication for the home selling process.

• Serious buyers – Most buyers want to be moved in and settled into their new home before the holidays and winter hit, so any interest you receive will generally lead to action.

Even with the increase in activity at this time of year, there really is no wrong time to list your home. According to Verge, “If you price your home appropriately and make every effort to present it in a superior way, chances are you will sell your property in a timely manner regardless of the season.”

More information is available at www.wedothehomework.ca.

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