Focus on safe home preparation for the holidays

November 23, 2018

Holmes and Holmes say, “Put major renos on hold and attend to the smaller, easy-to-fix items”


I never like to encourage homeowners to take on big renovations during the festive season, because attempting to time a renovation to a holiday milestone is a recipe for disaster. If delays happen, you could be looking at a half-complete renovation, and believe me, nobody wants to eat a holiday dinner with their contractor.

However, it’s still early enough that there are some small areas you CAN focus on that will help get your home ready for festive hosting.

Here are a few things you can do to make it right this holiday season:

Merry and bright — and fire safe

I love a big roaring fire, especially during these cold, long, winter nights. But you want the fire to stay contained in your fireplace. This time of year typically does see an upswing of chimney fires, so how do you prevent becoming a statistic?

Well, most chimney fires are due to lack of maintenance, or burning the wrong materials. While tossing in some ripped holiday wrapping paper and cardboard boxes may seem like a great source of kindling to deal with holiday trash, they’re not. They burn too quickly and too hot. Simply put, they’re a hazard; stick to dry newspaper. (For those of you still reading this in a physical newspaper, I won’t get mad if you take this to heart and toss my column in the fireplace after you’ve read it. Just raise a glass to me while you do it.)

While it does vary depending on its usage, if you like to cosy up to a warm fire, you should have it inspected and cleaned every two or three years. You want excessive creosote scrubbed from the chimney walls, and keep your fireplace burning safely.

House fires are more prevalent this time of year. Keep any holiday decorations that can burn at least three feet (91.44 centimetres) from any heating equipment. Don’t overload your outlets. And while extension cords offer plenty of extra reach, they should be temporary solutions only.

If, for instance, my string of lights can’t reach my Christmas tree without an extension cord, I’m finding a new place to put my tree.

Nothing beats the smell and look of a real Christmas tree — but make sure you keep it watered. A tree that’s dried out, can light up in seconds if struck with a stray spark — taking your living room with it. A watered tree can slow or stop the spread of flames, giving you time to get out and call the fire department.

Preventing slips and falls

The freeze-thaw cycle can cause your walkways and driveways to heave and crack. And when we use our bladed snow blowers over a traditional plastic shovel, you could be risking further cracking. I’m not saying to switch back to a push shovel, but if you’ve noticed some cracking in your pathways, they can be a hazard.

You don’t need to panic if you find a couple of small cracks or holes. It’s pretty simple to fix them on your own with a DIY kit from your local hardware store. Make sure the product you buy is rated for outdoor use, and you follow all directions and safety precautions necessary.

Indoors, keep tripping hazards to a minimum. Keep cords out of pathways — and to reiterate, extension cords should be a temporary solution only. Don’t place area rugs near staircases, and if young kids are coming to visit, avoid putting out any big breakable decorations.

Smart home technology

This time of year, I find that I have people coming and going from my house all the time. From the kids dropping off holiday decorations, to my dog walker taking Charlie out and, of course, friends and family dropping by for a visit.

The thing is, I’m not always around to let them in. If you’re in a similar boat, smart locks and other smart home technology can give you the ability to safely grant access to your home to those you trust — and get alerts that somebody has dropped by using their electronic keys. That includes when my son visits my garage to take a little “Christmas gift” home.

Courtesy of The National Post, November 23, 2018