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.

4 ways to keep your home fresh as it gets colder

4 ways to keep your home fresh as it gets colderWith the chill in the air, furnaces are on and windows are closed for the next few months. But this can lead to dry, stale air inside the home. Here are some ways you can reduce dry skin and irritated airways without getting fresh air from outside.

Keep fabrics clean. Ensure a clean environment at home, especially in the rooms where you spend the most time. Sheets, blankets, pillows, rugs – all these fabrics are perfect allergen collectors. Wash them regularly and try to avoid down-filled duvets and pillows, especially if you are an allergy sufferer.

Keep pets out of the bedroom. Even though it’s winter and you want to get cozy with your furry friend, pet dander can wreak serious havoc on your body when you’re sleeping. To help with the transition, set up a sleeping area with toys and other items your pet likes, so you can feel confident they’re comfortable without you.

Reduce use of harsh, smelly chemicals. All winter, our houses are closed, which means anything with a harsh chemical smell can’t escape and we’re subjecting our airways to it. Experiment with all-natural cleaning products including white vinegar, lemon and baking soda.

Humidify your air. To keep the air in your house fresh, consider purchasing a humidifier. The Philips Humidifier Series 2000 has evaporative technology that spreads 99 per cent less bacteria compared to leading ultrasonic humidifiers. Plus, the 360° design evenly distributes humidified air throughout the room, making it the perfect solution for dry, stuffy air in your home.

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.

The one design feature you’re overlooking

When it comes to decorating your home, it’s a smart idea to put your time, energy and money into the elements that make a difference to beauty and comfort. And don’t forget the window treatments.

An essential element in any space, window coverings manage illumination, privacy and even energy efficiency. They set the tone and ambiance; create a finished, polished look; and, can be a gorgeous design element that draws the eye.

When choosing the right window treatments for your home, consider these elements:

Light control and privacy. Harsh light at the window? Look for products with innovative fabric designs that transform sunlight into a soft glow and help protect your furnishings from damaging UV rays, such as the Silhouette line from Hunter Douglas. Want more light? Look for shades that can help channel light deeper into your room, filling dark corners and reducing your need for electrical lighting.

Privacy. You don’t need to sacrifice streaming sunlight for privacy from neighbours. Just look for products and operating systems that provide clever ways for giving you the privacy you want while maintaining your view through to the outside.

Energy efficiency. As much as 50 per cent of a home’s heating and cooling energy can be lost through its windows. But window treatments that provide insulation and solar heat control can reduce your energy bills by keeping your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

Safety. Kids and pets can get hurt with hanging cords and chains. From cordless and motorized operating systems, retractable lift cords, cord tensioners and wand controls, there are several operating system options for enhanced child and pet safety.

Smart-home convenience. Imagine your shades moving automatically to the exact position you prefer to achieve the specific lighting effect you love, or adjusting themselves for optimal energy efficiency throughout the day. With Hunter Douglas’ PowerView Motorization system, your shades will automatically move to schedules you set, so they’ll always be in their perfect positions 24/7.

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.

Refresh your home with new cabinet doors

Looking for a way to update your home? If you’re happy with your existing cabinetry layout, refacing with new cabinet doors is all you need. The timesaving, no-fuss solution will make your space look brand new in a week or less.

By using an in-home cabinet refacing service such as ReNuIt, which provides turnkey, in-home consultation and installation, all you have to do is pick your style and watch the beauty come to life.

Cabinet refacing is perfect for quickly refreshing kitchens as well as many other areas of your home where storage and organization are key. Here are some ideas for how to revive different spaces with fresh cabinets.

Laundry room. Updating cabinets in your laundry room is a great way to stay on-trend while keeping organized. You can use the cabinets to store detergent, laundry sheets and cleaning supplies. Consider updating with new cabinet doors in neutral tones such as beige, white or grey. These colours will bring a fresh feel and look as clean as your clothes.

Home office. Let style inspire you in this space. If you envision an energizing room, opt for cabinet doors in bright colours. There’s a variety of blues, greens or yellows that will get your creative juices flowing. Perhaps you’re looking for a luxury feel with warm tones. For this, consider a rich brown or dark burgundy, as they offer that ready-for-business vibe.

Hallway and mudroom. It can be hard to find a place to store all your shoes and outerwear. Having cabinetry near the front door will provide you with that extra storage space. Consider adding cabinetry to an unused alcove or entry nook. You can have them installed with shelves, dividers and hooks so that everything has its place. This will help hide all the clutter, creating a seamless space perfect for greeting guests.

For more information on cabinet re-facing and installation check out homedepot.ca.

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.

How to clean tricky areas in your home

Some nooks and crannies in the home can confound even the most fastidious housekeepers. Fortunately, a little elbow grease, the right tools and some simple techniques can go a long way toward an exceptionally clean home.

Get rid of gunk. When showering or using the bathroom sink becomes an unpleasant experience, it’s time to de-grime. Remove limescale and other gunk with DIY techniques and an ingredient already stocked in many homes — white vinegar. Soak shower tracks and the tub in vinegar for 30 minutes and wipe clean. Similarly, a rub with vinegar-soaked cotton balls on faucets, handles and other areas will leave the bathroom shining without any damage from abrasive scrubbing.

Conquer crevices. The many hard-to-reach areas of your home such as baseboards, vents, around appliances and under furniture might be neglected even when doing a thorough clean. Fortunately, Beam Central Vacuums feature lightweight hoses and ergonomic crevice and multi-tools that make it easy to maneuver and tackle even the most aggravating areas for an ultimate clean.

Freshen the fridge. The refrigerator needs a good cleaning every few months. Decrease the stress on its motor by pulling it from the wall, mopping the floor and vacuuming the coils in the back. Inside, soapy water will keep the shelves sparkling, while a damp cloth will remove smudges on the outside.

Denounce your dirty oven. You need to use some elbow grease to get rid of the actual grease. Remove hood vents, racks and burners, soak in soapy water and rinse twice per year. Wipe down the doors and crevices thoroughly before replacing the racks, then blast away any remaining grit by running the oven’s self-cleaning option.

Learn more about cleaning tricky areas of your home at www.buybeam.ca.

Essential home cleaning tips for pet owners

Even the biggest pet-lovers know furry friends can leave an endless mess around your home. Fortunately, an effective home cleaning routine can minimize the mess left behind on your floors, furniture and guests. Try these tips to keep your home happy, healthy and clean so both two- and four-legged family members can flourish.

Stop dirt on sight. Rain, leaves, mud and mischief are a recipe for disaster when pets are coming back in from some outdoor playtime, but it’s possible to keep dirt and debris outside. Think ahead and keep all-natural pet wipes at the door to capture dirt and moisturize paw pads and fur at the same time.

Say no to furry furniture. You want your living spaces guest ready, not full of fur and pet hair. With Beam Central Vacuum accessories like a pet grooming brush, upholstery brush and hand power brush cleaning those favourite pet nap spots is effortless, removing fur along with any dirt, dust and allergens they brought in from outside.

Roll hair away. Even once furniture and floors are clean, fur is likely to stick to clothes. Keep a lint roller in an accessible place near the front door. This is especially helpful for sending appreciative guests on their way as fur-free as they arrived, with fond memories not fur balls.

Protect what matters. Curious teeth and paws can wreak havoc on valuable home items. To stop pets in the act and keep them away from areas where they aren’t allowed, use furniture-safe products like bitter-tasting pet sprays. Keep non-toxic wood fillers on hand to mend scratches and gashes in case of an incident.

Learn more about keeping your home clean with pets at www.buybeam.ca.