Tips On Making Your Home More Secure

Your house is your home, your fortress of safety.

It’s a place where you keep your most important belongings: your checkbooks, your jewelry, your heirlooms, your important documents and most importantly, your family.

Everybody has the right to feel safe in their own home.

The saying goes that a man’s home is his castle, and of course the first purpose of a castle is to be strong and secure enough to resist would-be intruders, and prevent them from getting inside.

There are simple things you can do to safeguard your house, most of which you probably do already: lock your doors, lock your windows and keep lights on when you are away.

But there are also more extensive things you can do, things that are sure to leave you, and your house, feeling a little bit safer.

The following are some tips on securing your doors, windows, patio doors and more in order to make your home and valuables as safe as possible.

Conduct A Quick Scan Of Your Yard And Entryway

  • Are the yard and pathways free of sight-line blocking branches and shrubbery?
  • What kind of lighting illuminates your property?  Is it motion-senor activated?
  • Do the exterior lights you leave on in your absence all-encompassing?
  • Do your neighbors have a good view of your lawn and walkway, to discourage lurking intruders?

Secure Your Doors

Doors are a burglar’s preferred method of entry. A deadbolt lock will provide a good degree of security for your front door. Poorly secured patio doors or French doors can be an open invitation for burglars to break into your home, so it is vital to ensure they have reliable locks. As an added precaution, you can get a chain fitted to your front door, which should offer some further peace of mind.

If you have a letter slot in your front door, the slot should be no closer than 16 inches from the door lock, to prevent burglars reaching through and unlocking the door from the inside. If you are worried about mail theft, fit an internal cover plate or letter basket (with the bottom removed).

Get a Door Viewer

A door viewer, or peephole or spy hole as they are sometimes called, is an important addition to your home, particularly if you have children. By installing a door viewer, you are able to see who is at the front door before opening it.

ring-with-door

Companies like Ring have come out with modern versions of the door viewer that allow you to see who is at your door from anywhere with your smartphone. This is great for kids as well, because they can’t always see through the peephole.

ring-smartphone

If this sounds useful, check out our Secure & Monitor Package.

Here are a few more technology-based home security ideas.

Get a Wrought Iron Door

When it comes to security, two doors are better than one. Installing a wrought iron door in your house, whether it’s in the front, back, or side of your house, is a great way to create an added level of security.  A simple wrought iron door gives burglars another obstacle to overcome, and another reason to leave your house alone.

Secure Your Windows

Windows can be vulnerable to burglars, so it is advisable to have locking devices fitted, particularly for ground floor windows or ones which lead on to balconies.

Remember to close all the windows whenever you leave the house, however briefly you go out for.

Additional Security

motion-light

Motion or heat sensitive lighting is a good way to deter potential intruders, and such devices are now affordable and widely available. This is a great form of preventative security, as it means that burglars will be less likely to want to try breaking into your home in the first place.

You can also make things harder for burglars by keeping your garden open and trimming back bushes, meaning that they have nowhere to hide. Also, remember to put away any tools or ladders that might be outside, as it is important not to leave anything lying around that may actually help the burglar break in.

Finally, don’t be tempted to leave a spare set of keys under a plant pot or doormat, or hanging inside the mail box –burglars know all these tricks, and these are the first places they will check. Once they have your keys, a burglar will have an easy way to visit and re-visit your house at will until you have the locks replaced.

Make It Look Like You’re Home

Another easy preventative measure is to make your home appear occupied. Leave the lights on when you go out for an evening, or consider using some home automation if you are going to be away for a longer period.

Are there still people who go on vacation and allow mail and newspapers to stack up in front of their home?  Amazingly, yes.

Yet is there any clearer sign to passersby that people have been away from their house for an extended period than a collection of newspapers in the driveway, or envelopes jutting out of a mailbox?

You can contact both your postal carrier and newspaper delivery person to temporarily stop their service, but a better choice is to ask a friend or neighbor to stop by each day just long enough to collect the paper and mail and keep them for you until your return.

Get A Burglar Alarm

Yes, a burglar alarm may seem so “1980’s” but security never goes out of style. Not only do burglar alarms secure your house when you are away, such as on vacation, but they also keep you safe when you are home. Just telling others that they are there, such as with a sticker in your front door window or a sign on your front lawn, is a great deterrent.

Replace What is Broken

One of the most common reasons people are burglarized and assaulted is because of things that are broken and not fixed. Time after time, assailants are able to enter a house through a broken window or door that no longer locks. Do yourself and your family a favor and don’t wait to fix things: fix them immediately and sleep sound at night.

Don’t Wait – Check The Date

smoke alarm
Have you replaced your smoke alarms recently? ever?

October 9th-15th is Fire Prevention Week, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has themed this year’s fire safety observance with the slogan, “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.”

According to NFPA statistics, half of all U.S. home fire deaths occur between the hours of 11pm and 7 am, when people are most likely to be sleeping.

Having a working smoke alarm cuts the risk of dying in a fire by half.  And remember, of course, that merely installing detectors is not enough; it’s important to check them periodically to make sure they remain in working order, and to replace the batteries at regular intervals.

Click here to get a new smoke alarm

Along with maintaining your smoke detectors, there are a few other home improvement tasks you can do to ensure your family’s safety in the event of a fire:

Have An Evacuation Plan

The American Red Cross also reminds homeowners that it’s important for all members of your household to be aware of the quickest, safest way to exit in case of a fire, and to practice this escape so that it’s firm in everyone’s mind.  Both a primary and a secondary escape route should be mapped, for added fire safety.

Keep An Eye On Flammable Materials

Remember to never to leave fireplaces, candles, space heaters or even running clothes dryers unattended.  All have the capability of igniting a house fire.  Keep curtains, fabrics and all objects away from space heaters.  Never overload electrical outlets.  Entryways need to be kept free of clutter and objects that might impede a hasty egress in case of emergency.

Senior Fire Safety Measures

Seniors and people with reduced mobility issues are at a particular risk; it’s important that they or their caregivers do a careful walk-through of their homes to make sure every step has been taken to ensure the ability to exit as quickly and directly as possible.

Fireproof New Additions To Your Home

When it comes to home repair, or building or buying a new home, it’s important to balance your desire for attractiveness with practicality and safety.  Cedar siding, for example, is a popular choice, but it is also one of the more flammable surfaces.  Take the time to consult with builders, carpenters and handymen to make sure all of the materials being used are designed for safety as well as for appeal.

If you are unsure about the best place to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, or if you need assistance fireproofing your home—or addressing any other safety issues that come into play—Handyman Matters craftsmen are always available to assist with a walk-through or with any remodel or repair issues that will ensure you are living in a safe and comfortable environment.

How To Make Your Home More Fire Safe

smoke detector

The underlying need behind every to-do list is to keep the house from burning down.

As winter approaches, fires become more and more of a possibility.  Spending an increased amount of time at home will inevitably heighten the likelihood of one of the kids leaving an oven mitt on the stove, or the overused dryer catching fire, or the dog chewing through an electrical cord

While you may not be able to stop accidents from happening, you can lessen their chances by having your home’s fire prevention up to date.  Here’s how:

CO Monitors

Not every home has these, but they should. Carbon Monoxide is a toxic gas that is both odorless, and colorless.  It is often the harmful byproduct of every day appliances.  Some common sources of this range from open flames, to water heaters, to blocked chimneys.  It is the kind of thing you won’t see coming, so why take that fatal chance?

co-child-sleeping

CO detectors are inexpensive and can be purchased online.  Installing these guys close to the ceiling or close to the floor is important, CO will either rise or fall.

Test Smoke Detectors

Everyone’s number one favorite device to deactivate is this noisy sucker.  We’ve all been there, it’s the middle of the night, and there’s a persistent beeping sound.

While smoke detectors can be agitating, they are life savers.  Check them once every 3 to 6 months to make sure they work properly, and change the battery when it’s dead.

Fire Extinguishers

This is a necessity.  Every floor of your home should have an up-to-date fire extinguisher.  These tools should also correspond to your home’s fire emergency plans.

fire-extinguisher

Make sure all the members of the family who are responsible and enjoy the privilege of riding in the front seat (aka anyone over the age of twelve, with self-control, and strong enough arms), know where the fire extinguishers are, and how they operate.

Fire Hazards

Here are a list of the most common fire risks around your home to check up on…

  • Kitchens – Appliances like stoves, pressure cooker, grills, etc. need a 3 ft radius of space between them and another object. This may mean rearranging the placement of some shelves or hooks, but better safe than sorry.
  • Clothes Dryer – Dryers create tons of lint. We all know about cleaning out the lint catcher after each load, but what about the dryer cabinet?  This is a sneakier aspect to your machine, and it’s something that needs to be maintained.
  • Sawdust – If you have your own personal handyman (or woman) in your home, it’s likely that there is also a corresponding stack of sawdust somewhere in your garage. Cleaning up after projects is very necessary, especially in the case of wood.  Saw dust is flammable and burns quickly, so it’s better not to take the chance.
  • Loose Outlets – If there is an outlet in your house where the cord falls out easily, you have a problem. These outlets generate a lot of heat and overtime can start fires.  Re-securing outlets when they become loose will keep your home safe.

Having a Fire Safety and Evacuation plan for your home is paramount.

  • Know all the exits, windows and doors.
  • Make sure the smaller individuals are matched up with a buddy and that they know your address and how to call 911.
  • Have a meeting point (like a coffee shop or friends home) to regroup at.

For assistance making your home more fire safe – give us a call! 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

Enjoying Your July Fourth Festivities With Safety In Mind

Summer is here, at last, with all of its enjoyable warm-weather activities: picnics, hiking, fishing, gardening, swimming, boating, bar-b-ques, and, of course, celebrating the anniversary of our nation’s independence on July 4th.  And, unfortunately, it’s a fact of nature that all of these are accompanied by a certain amount of risk.  Handyman Matters is here to help you have a safe and wonderful time this summer.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind to reduce the risk of spending any time being treated for injuries from easily avoidable accidents.

PROTECT YOURSELF

Stay hydrated and use sunscreen!  This seems pretty obvious, but it’s ridiculously easy to step outdoors for what you think will be just a few minutes, only to wind up distracted by some task that will have you boiling underneath the sun’s harsh rays without even realizing it.  Both sunburn and dehydration sneak up on you, so don’t give them a chance.

KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS

With the advent of spring and the return of green grass and flowers comes the temptation to spruce up things around your home and yard.  Maybe you’re eyeing a landscaping project, taking down storm windows, cleaning gutters, sanding and re-staining patio furniture, washing all the second-story windows, or something else.  Whether it’s a large project or small, don’t jump in until you’ve fully considered the amount of time you can dedicate to it, as well as your personal skill level.  Don’t compromise the project—or your safety—by biting off more than you can chew.  You’ll wind up frustrated (or worse, yet—with a frustrated spouse!) and a home improvement project only halfway done by autumn, and looking nowhere near the way you pictured it in your head!

BE SAFE, BE SAFE, AND BE SAFE

Don’t mount a rickety ladder to wash windows, clean gutters or to check the condition of your roof.  Don’t undertake any of these or any other outdoor activities when a thunder and lightning storm beckons.  Make sure you alert someone before attempting any task that involves working with power tools or takes you up into a tree or onto a ladder—the statistics on people lying injured while unaware family members are just steps away are staggering.  Don’t be one of them!

Don’t prune trees or shrubbery anywhere near power lines.  Don’t dig on your property until you know precisely where any utility cables are buried.

BE CAREFUL AND CAUTIOUS IN YOUR CELEBRATING

The Fourth of July holiday comes with some uniquely potential hazards:  grilling, open flames, fireworks, and, in many instances, alcohol.  Adding to the mix are children and pets dashing around, a heightened recipe for disaster.  It’s important to exercise caution and to resist temptation.  Leave the fireworks to the experts.  Don’t leave grills, bar-b-cues or open flames unattended for even a few seconds.  If you are entertaining even a small group of friends or family, be vigilant.  Have fun, and relax—just don’t relax too much—it’s the responsibility comes with being a good host.

Handyman Matters wants you to have a summer to remember—but for all the right reasons!  We stand ready to assist you with any summertime projects that can help you enjoy your house and yard to their fullest.  After all, we’re in this for the long haul—we want you to be a customer for life!

You can always reach us by calling 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME.

Declutter your Office and Living Room with these Cord Management Tricks!

home office cord management
Even as technology advances, very few things are truly cordless – at least not yet.  Having loose cords can contribute to safety, tripping hazards, and well – decorating hazards.  There’s nothing quite like creating a home office or living room to reflect your tastes and then have it ruined by the tangled mess of cords and cables.  At Handyman Matters, we think homes should be smart in more than one way.

In home offices you have the desktop computers, laptop charge cables, printers, backup drives, USB microphones, Wi-Fi hubs and internet routers all with at least one cable trailing from the back, needing an outlet.  On top of that, fewer and fewer desks offer the ability to hide cables.  Living rooms are just as bad with your sound systems, game consoles, mounted flat screen TVsDeclutter your home office and living room today with these cord management tricks…

Know your outlets

Outlets can move! One extension cord run along the side of the floor can direct any source of electricity to a different side of your home.

Power strips

Make it easy to plug things in!  Add a power strip near the center of your gadget needs.  Keep an eye on how many high powered electronics you plug in at a time, and make sure your strip is flat on the ground or mounted solidly on an easier access point.

Furniture

Larger furniture pieces such as desks, bookcases, and entertainment centers should be taken full advantage of when it comes to cord management.  Running extension or longer cords up the back of the furniture is a great way to hide cables. Use a staple gun (or duct tape in a similar color as the piece of furniture) to secure the cables every half-foot or so along the back up to their corresponding destinations.  Make sure to have the staple straddle the cord and not puncture it as that can potentially ruin the wiring inside the cable.  You can even mount a power strip on the back of a larger piece of furniture, or even on a shelf for an easy to reach hub.

Floor and wall maintenance

  • Over-floor cord protectors  – When you have to run a cord across a room, use one of these to protect the wire, and the people walking around your home.
  • Wall mount cord covers – Extra helpful for mounted flat screen TVs, these covers can run up or along a wall, match the color of your wall, and disguise your cables.
  • Cable ties – A cheap and easy way to prevent tangles and keep all the cables in one area.

For more organizational ideas, or help installing your cord management systems, call 866-FIX-MY-HOME or schedule your appointment online!

Is Your Backyard Ready For Summer?

With summer—and barbeque season—close at hand, it’s time to conduct a backyard inspection to make sure that your home is ready for entertaining family and friends over the next several months.

How well did the lawn and flower beds come through the winter?  Are there brown or bare patches in the grass?  Have the shrubbery and other bushes become scraggly and overgrown?  Could the lawn furniture stand a good power-washing?

Often, just a little “sprucing-up” is required to have your backyard looking its best again, but it all begins by conducting a careful inventory, looking at everything through the eyes of a guest.  Prepare to make a few notes as you walk around the areas where you will be entertaining, and ask yourself four questions:

  1. What needs cleaning/trimming?  Is the grass overgrown?  Are the lawn cushions looking soiled or faded?  Are your windows streaked or muddied from a winter’s worth of storms?  Do you have trees and bushes that could use a good trimming?  Are the gutters clogged or overflowing?
  2. What needs repairing?   Stand in the middle of the yard and turn around slowly, taking in everything you see.  What could stand a fresh coat of paint or stain?  Are there boards dangling or missing from the fence?  Do your kids have a tree house or playground equipment that has seen better days?   Is the gate sagging or are the hinges loose?  Is it a struggle to open or close the sliding patio door?
  3. What needs replacing?  Is the bird feeder cracked or dangling by a frayed thread?  Are the vinyl straps on the patio furniture loose or broken?  Has the umbrella over the deck table seen its last season?  How old and how reliable is your grill?
  4. What presents potential hazards?  Most importantly, determine whether there’s anything around the yard or patio that could cause injury.  Are there loose flagstones in the garden, crumbling or loose bricks on the low patio wall?  Are there wobbly deck railings, or cracked boards on steps?  Are there dark corners, stumbling hazards, low-hanging beams or any other hazards where adding outdoor lighting could reduce the risk of injury?

Entertaining company on summer afternoons and evenings should be a laid-back, stress-free experience.  And, in truth, people are there to enjoy one another’s company.  Things don’t have to be perfect for everyone to have a good time.  But a little clean-up and repair ahead of time will go a long way towards enhancing your time with friends and family.

For assistance in sprucing up your home and yard for the summer months, you can always rely on the friendly and capable craftsmen at Handyman Matters to help out with any project, large or small.  Call 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com where you can enter your zip code to find the number of the location nearest you.

Remodeling Your Bathroom For Accessibility

Unless you have an unlimited supply of cash, or you figure you won’t be staying in your current home much past retirement, you will want to approach a bathroom remodel or upgrade with an eye towards what is both attractive now and functional as you grow older.

The image of an accessible bathroom as something clinical- or sterile-looking is outdated. It’s not only possible to have an appealing and charming powder room that incorporates accessibility features, it’s become easier than ever, thanks largely to the aging Baby Boomer population that has begun requesting such things.

Grab bars, head rests and other assistive technology are far less blatant and cold in appearance than they once were. And if homeowners aren’t ready to incorporate all of these elements into a current bathroom scheme, remodels can still be designed to add these elements with a minimum of fuss and disruption later.

Walk-in tubs and showers have crossed over from being viewed as “old people’s” things to being trendy and convenient for everyone. And the technology of lighting design has advanced to such an extent that bathroom illumination can be flexible, so as to allow for adjustment from recessed to bold and all degrees between, depending on individual need at the time.

There’s a potential financial bonus to bathroom design, as well. Bathroom upgrades ensure greater resale value. And if a member of your household has any type of physical challenge, and if the remodel is focused on making the space compliant with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations, there is a possibility that Medicare of Medicaid will cover some of the cost if the remodel includes things like environment accessibility adaptions or assistive technology. Don’t assume these are covered, however, without checking with your doctor or local Medicare policies.

Don’t reject the idea of accessible bathroom design out of hand without first exploring the new technologies and products available to add both style and increased quality of life to one of the most important rooms in your home. For additional advice or assistance in any of your home upgrade or repair projects, call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com to enter your zip code and find the Handyman Matters office nearest you.

Staying Informed About Lead-Based Paint

We’ve heard about the dangers of lead-based paint in older homes and office buildings, but not everyone is familiar with the appropriate procedures for dealing with it.

If you live in an older home and you are preparing to undertake some renovations, there are a number of important things to keep in mind.  For starters, people living in homes built before 1978 should obtain a copy of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Small Entity Compliance Guide to Renovate Right.

The handbook summarizes the requirements of the EPA’s 2008 Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Program Rule. It will enable you to ask the appropriate questions of any contractor or repairman.  It’s important to make certain that anyone you engage to work in an older home is certified in lead-based paint removal.

All firms that engage in home repair and renovation should ensure that their employees are trained in the use of lead-safe work practices.  “Renovation” is defined as any activity that disturbs painted surfaces.  This is not confined to just the removal of old paint, but also a broad array of repair and maintenance activities.  Window replacement, electrical work and plumbing all fall into this category if your home, apartment or any child-occupied facility was built prior to 1978.

Ask your contractor to provide you proof of his certification, as well as a lead pamphlet prior to starting any work.  If he cannot, you should not allow him to begin any renovations on your property.

You should understand, too, that in addition to the very strict guidelines put in place by the EPA, individual state or local agencies may have added additional restrictions and that may go well beyond federal requirements.  To obtain information relating to your local community, call the National Lead Information Center at 1(800)424-5323.

As always, Handyman Matters stands ready to assist you with your home repair, renovation and remodeling needs.  Call 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com to enter your zip code and find the phone number of the location that services your area.

Maintaining and Repairing your Garbage Disposal

One of the hardest working appliances in your home is your garbage disposal. And because it’s also one of the most consistent and reliable, you rarely give it a second thought… until it isn’t working! Here are a few tips for maintaining or repairing your garbage disposal so it can do its job well, followed by some pointers for what to do when it isn’t.

Items your garbage disposal can’t handle… 

  • Not only should you not put bones or eggshells through your disposal, coffee grounds are a big no-no. Frozen meats can create problems, as well. If you’ve decided that some item that has been lurking in your freezer for months needs to be tossed, allow it to thaw before feeding it through the disposal unit. Or bypass the disposal altogether and simply throw it in the regular trash.
  • Don’t pour grease down your drain/disposal either; it can easily gum up the inner workings. NEVER pour bleach, drain cleaner or any other household chemicals down there, either.

Rinsing out your garbage disposal…

  • Use cold, rather than warm water when running the disposal. Every week or so, drop a few ice cubes down the drain before operating it. This helps keep the blades sharp as well as loosening any accumulated debris from the blades.

Removing items from your disposal…

  • If you’ve dropped something in there accidentally—glass, rubber, silverware, etc.—use tongs or pliers to remove it. NEVER stick your hand down the disposal.

Repairing your garbage disposal…

  • In the event that the unit not only isn’t working, but isn’t even making a grinding or humming sound, this likely means that the unit isn’t receiving power. Before calling a repair service, check the underside of the disposal. Nearly all have a reset button located there. Press it and then try operating the unit again. That may be all that’s required to fix the problem.
  • If the disposal motor hums or makes an intermittent noise, then it is receiving power, but something has likely jammed the machinery. Don’t continue to run it, since you may well burn out the motor. Never attempt a repair a garbage disposal at this point without either unplugging the unit or turning off the power source.
  • If the blades are damaged or broken, it may be easier to replace the entire unit. While disposals aren’t necessarily inexpensive, the repair costs to fix a malfunctioning unit may come close to the price of simply installing a new one.

And, of course, you can always find help maintaining or repairing your garbage disposal by contacting your local Handyman Matters office at 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME or going to www.handymanmatters.com. Once there, you can enter your zip code and be directed to the Handyman Matters nearest you. They will be happy to assist you with fixing your old disposal or, if necessary, installing a new one.

Roof Repairs and your Home Winterization Checklist

Roof Repairs and your Winterization Checklist
A key part of the winterization process is to make sure that your home is prepared for a storm.  Perhaps it’s a monsoon, a blizzard, cooler temperatures, or just strong winds; preparing your home for the winter means to batten down the hatches.  Roofing can take the heaviest hit during the winter months, and if you ignore your home maintenance and roof repairs, you run the risk structural and interior home damage.

So how do you know what repairs to make?

  • Replace/Add Shingles Not all roof repairs need to be full overhauls.  Sometimes, a mere roofing inspection followed by the replacement of a few shingles will suffice.
  • Layer Cutoff However, the cut off point for just adding new layers of shingles to forego a roof replacement is 2 layers.  Once you hit 2 layers you are required by the International Residential Code to replace your roof.
  • Type of Shingle A roof replacement can also allow you the opportunity to opt for a heavier shingle.  Many store bought options are not optimal for roofs in high-wind areas.  If you notice your shingles blowing off, replace your roof with a sturdier shingle and cut out the regular repair costs.
  • Safety There’s a lot that can go wrong with an old roof.  Sagging and leaks can be symptomatic of larger structural issues.  Especially in higher snowfall areas, repairing compromised roofs before the weight of accumulated snow is important.  Ultimately, having a roof fall in on your house is way more problematic than the cost of roof maintenance.

While new roofs may be an expensive renovation, it’s one that can save you a lot of time, money, and stress repairing an outdated roof.  It’s these kinds of home maintenance investments that will ultimately improve the longevity of your home.  Call Handyman Matters today to get started on your roof repairs and winterization checklist, 866-FIX-MY-HOME!