Top Home Danger Zones: Don't overlook the maintenance projects and safety measures that can keep you and your family from harm
Inside the house
Insufficient fire protection: Buying a bunch of smoke detectors isnt enough you actually have to install and maintain them. Both steps are easy with contemporary models, some of
Home Sweet Home can harbor many dangers that are easy to put off fixing or overlooked altogether. Before autumn arrives, take time to secure your home inside and out to prevent the following from impacting your familys safety and security.
Inside the house
Insufficient fire protection: Buying a bunch of smoke detectors isnt enough
you actually have to install and maintain them. Both steps are easy with contemporary models, some of which allow battery power status to be checked by remote.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning: HVAC systems, autos and outdoor machinery can be sources of this odorless, colorless, deadly gas. Make sure youre warned that CO is on the scene by installing carbon monoxide detectors (also available in smoke-CO detector combinations) throughout your home, and never run your car or any other fuel-burning machines in even a partially closed garage.
Bathroom dangers: Family members of all ages are at risk for slips and falls in slick tubs and showers and on slippery bathroom floors. Install grab bars in strategic locations around the space, and roll out non-slip area rugs over tile and vinyl flooring. Also make sure that small children are attended at all times while bathing and keep toilet lids closed, as little ones can drown in just a few inches of water.
Clogged dryer exhaust duct: Every year an average of 14,500 dryers catch fire and are responsible for up to ten deaths─not because of wiring problems, but the lint that collects in the dryers exhaust ducts. Keep the laundry area safe by doing an annual or bi-annual cleaning of the duct, using a tool made for the purpose which snakes a rotary brush through the line and attaches to the chuck of a cordless drill on one end for easy operation.
Unsteady stairs: Keep stairways clear of toys and other items that could be tripped over, and make sure banisters are secure and easy to grip. Install handrails on both sides of the stairs at approximately 34 inches above the nose of the steps.
Unsecured storage for medications and chemicals: Inquisitive youngsters and family pets can find dangerous substances in a flash, so dont take chances. Make sure all medications and household chemicals are stored out of reach in locked cabinets.
Dirty chimney: Creosote buildup from all of those evenings by the hearth can lead to a roaring flue fire, so have chimneys checked and cleaned well before the heating season begins.
Portable space heaters: Yes, theyre convenient, but theyre also fire hazards if left unattended or within reach of draperies, furnishings and other flammables. If you must use a space heater, make sure its off when youre not around, and allow it to cool thoroughly before moving it to another location.
Unstoppable garage door: Todays garage doors must include a safety feature enabling them to immediately reverse direction if they come in contact with an obstruction. Test your door occasionally to ensure that this important feature is functioning properly.
Termite infestation: Termites cause billions of dollars in structural damage every year, with much of it on the home front. At the first sign of an infestation, call your local exterminator; otherwise, these unwelcome visitors could eat your home right out from under you.
Got rot? This dangerous wood decay is started by an invasive, moisture-loving fungus, and poses a major threat to the structural integrity of a home. Work with a pro to quickly replace or rebuild any areas where dry rot has struck.
Mold: An often-hidden health threat, mold hurts people as well as surfaces. Keep it at bay by managing moisture and airflow, and containing organic substances that serve as its food.
Outside the house
Clogged gutters: Not only do gunked-up gutters keep rainwater from flowing freely, they can also end up sending it close to a homes foundation and into interior spaces where it creates moisture and mold problems. Give gutters a seasonal cleaning, and make sure they dispense water on a downward slope well away from the structure.
Loose roof shingles: A shingle missing here or there may not seem like a big deal, but as the underlayments and roof structure are exposed, cracks and splits can develop and allow water to leak inside to do damage. Dont wait to tend to roof repairs, and dont allow them to take the place of a new surface if thats whats really needed.
Pools and hot tubs: They may be fun for the family, but theyre also grave dangers for drowning. Use locked covers and secure fencing to prevent accidents between pool parties, and never leave children unattended as they swim and play.
Unfinished finishes: That paint job that never quite got completed isnt just an eyesore─its an invitation to wear and even rot where surfaces have been left exposed. If you cant get to the job yourself, hire a pro to finish putting on that new coat of color.
Untrimmed trees: Employ a reputable care and trimming service to tend to the trees on your property. The pruning and monitoring theyll do will prevent dangerous bough breaks as well as keep your landscaping looking beautiful.
Along with the nuts and bolts above, be sure to do a regular reassessment and adjustment of your homeowners insurance. It may mean sacrifice of a little time and a few dollars, but youll be glad to have done both if a major home emergency ever befalls you.
Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Tom's free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program's Web site.