Home Security Tips for Home Sellers

Posted in General Information, Home Security on June 13th, 2013 by Judy — 1 Comment so far

If you’re selling your home this summer or know someone who is, these home security tips for home sellers will come in handy.  It’s unlikely that you have complete strangers coming through your home on a regular basis, but when you’re selling, that’s precisely what happens.  Potential buyers want to see your entire home, even inside clothes closets and kitchen cupboards.  Having a home on the market makes it a noticeable target for criminals, so it’s important to have a security plan in place.  Here are some precautions to take before you allow would-be buyers in the door:

 

house with for sale sign

 

  • Go through your house room by room and remove any valuables.  Do not leave jewelry, money or other precious items in plain view and make sure that they can’t be seen on camera in a virtual tour.  Put any items of value in a safe or take them to a secure location away from your home.
  • Consider showing your house by appointment only.  Holding an open house often benefits the realtor getting new clients more than the home seller.  Also, it’s impossible for a realtor at an open house to keep track of numerous people in various parts of the house.
  • Real estate agents often advise homeowners to leave the premises while the home is being shown to potential buyers, so the buyers feel more comfortable making honest observations about the house.  However, in terms of security, you may want to be there to monitor what’s going on in the house, especially if most of your belongings are still in the house.  Discuss your concerns with your realtor.
  • A log should be filled out with information on anyone who enters your home.  This should include name, address and phone number.
  • Do not leave bills, bank statements, check books or any other paperwork with personal information in plain sight.
  • If you decide to have an open house, open all blinds and curtains so the house feels open and bright and the chance of any criminal activity occurring decreases.
  • Don’t disclose home security details to visitors and be suspicious of anyone who is overly interested in your security precautions while the house is being shown.
  • If you are selling your home without a realtor, never show the house without at least one other person present.
  • Always check to be sure all doors and windows are locked after the house is shown.  Burglars often leave a door or window unlocked so they can enter again at a later time.

Now that you’ve kept the criminals out, you can focus your attention on the serious buyers.  Happy selling.

 

Summer Pet Safety Tips

Posted in General Information, Pet Safety on June 5th, 2013 by Judy — 1 Comment so far

Summer is here and for many of us, that means spending time outdoors with our pets.   While it’s great to share the summer fun with our furry friends, some activities you enjoy may not be safe for your pet.  Pets can get dehydrated, over heated and even sunburned, so a few precautions are in order to keep them safe and you free of large vet bills.  Here are a few summer safety tips for your pet:

 

dog on surfboard in pool

  • Pets need fresh water and shade when outdoors.  Be sure the water bowl can’t be knocked over, as your pet can become dehydrated very quickly without water.
  • Dogs should be supervised around swimming pools.  While some dog breeds are excellent swimmers, many dogs aren’t.  Don’t let your pet drink pool water, as the chemicals can be harmful.  Be sure your pet wears a life jacket when boating.
  • Asphalt gets piping hot in the summer and your dog is close to the ground, so limit walks during the hottest part of the day.  Dogs can overheat quickly when the asphalt is radiating heat and their paw pads are burning hot.
  • Beware of open windows if you live in a high-rise building.  Every year, pets fall out of open windows and are seriously injured or killed.  All open windows should have well-secured screens.
  • Products such as sunscreen and insect repellents should only be used on pets if they are specifically labeled for use on animals.
  • Summer parties and barbecues are very much a part of summer fun, but human food and drink can be dangerous to your pet.  Pets should never consume alcohol, chocolate, onions or grapes, for example.  It’s best to keep pets away from human food.
  • Pets should stay inside if fireworks are being used nearby.

Finally, pets should never be left in a closed vehicle in hot weather, not even for a few minutes.  Pets can be overcome by the heat and suffer a fatal heat stroke, even with the vehicle windows open.  The Arizona Humane Society currently has an awareness campaign for this problem aptly named No More Hot Dogs.  I’ll add to that by saying cool cats and dogs are safe and happy cats and dogs.

Vacation Security Tips

Posted in General Information, Home Safety, Home Security on May 20th, 2013 by Judy — 1 Comment so far

Memorial Day weekend is coming up and that marks the start of the summer travel season.  Many of us will be heading out of town for a long weekend of fun.  Before you go, take a few moments to do a security check of your home, so the fun doesn’t end in misfortune.  Here are some tips to keep your home safe and secure while you’re gone:

 

hand breaking in

  • Put interior lights on timers so they come on at dusk.  Make sure exterior lights are on timers or motion sensors.
  • Leave window coverings in a normal use position.  Your house should not look closed  up.  Be sure no one can see into rooms with expensive items, such as a home office with computer equipment.
  • Have a neighbor pick up any newspapers left outside your house.
  • Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway so it looks as though someone is home.  If you’re leaving your own car in the driveway, be sure your garage door opener isn’t in the car.
  • If you have a home alarm system, use it.  Make sure the company alarm shield is clearly visible in front of your house.
  • Don’t hide a spare key outside your house.  Thieves know where to look, so your “secret” hiding place will eventually be found.  Leave a spare key with a trusted neighbor instead.
  • Don’t announce your departure on your voicemail or on social media.
  • Do a check around the outside of your house to be sure no one can hide in shrubs outside a window.

Finally, lock all windows and doors, including the door from the garage into the house.  Put a bar in slider tacks or use a lock with an insertion pin.  Double check the gates to your back yard are locked.

Now you can focus on having a great trip!

Summer Safety Watch

With warmer weather finally here, you’re probably spending a lot more time outdoors.  In fact, you may be spending much of your leisure time enjoying life in your yard with family and friends, so it’s a good time to review a few safety tips to ensure your outdoor space stays a safe, as well as fun, place to be.  There are a few areas that deserve special mention in terms of safety:

 

outdoor living space

 

Check your grill.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that about 3600 people end up in emergency rooms each year due to grill accidents.  To avoid being part of those statistics, give your grill a safety check.

  • Check hoses for cracking, brittleness and leaks.
  • Check for gas leaks if you have an liquid propane (LP) gas container.
  • Make sure your grill is at least 10 feet away from your house and other buildings.  Your grill should be in a wide open space, not a carport, breezeway, covered porch or garage.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher near the grill.
  • Don’t leave the grill unattended while cooking and keep kids away from the grill.

Be sure outdoor pathways and entertaining areas are well lit.

  • If you use tiki torches or lit candles in bags, be sure they are not near any vegetation that could catch fire.
  • Solar LED fixtures are now reasonably priced and require no electrical wires.  I use them in my own yard and they provide fine light for evening entertaining and use no electricity.

For daylight entertaining, sun protection is essential.

  • Umbrellas, pergolas, covered patios and shady areas under trees make for ideal daytime entertaining.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen for yourself and your guests.  Insect repellent is a good idea, too.

Lastly, if you have a pool and small children, install a pool fence.  While safety codes for swimming pools vary from one municipality to another, the goal is to prevent drownings.  Take pool safety seriously, for both children and adults.

Now please pass the suncreen, and let’s go outside!

Basement Safety and Design

Posted in General Information, Home Safety, Safety and Design on May 2nd, 2013 by Judy — 4 Comments

Basements come in many varieties.  Luxury homes can contain elaborate theaters, entertainment centers and small kitchens in their finished basements.  Contrast that with the basic unfinished, rather moldy basement in my childhood home, not uncommon in many older homes even today.  A basement can be a desirable home asset or a space that is rather scary and mostly unused.  In any case, a basement should at the very least pose no health and safety threat to the members of your household.  So here are some tips to make your basement a safe and even desirable place to spend time:

beautiful finished basement

 

  • Test your basement for radon.  Radon is a radioactive gas that is found in nearly all soils.  It can enter your basement through cracks in the foundation.  Once inside your home, the gas can build up and cause health problems.  Radon testing is common and inexpensive.
  • Basements, especially unfinished basements, can be damp and promote mold growth.  Consider using a dehumidifier in the basement and be sure any cracks in floors or walls are sealed.
  • Cover exposed insulation in an unfinished basement.  Insulation releases vapors that can be harmful if inhaled.  If you’re not planning to put up drywall, at least cover the insulation with plastic sheets.
  • Be sure stairs to the basement have a railing.  Visibility is often poor on basement stairs, so be sure lighting is adequate and there is a railing for safety on the stairs.
  • Cardboard boxes are not a good choice for storage in the basement.  Cardboard absorbs moisture, which can foster mold and attract pests.  Plastic bins are a better choice for basement storage.
  • Be sure your basement has working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Cleaning supplies and other chemicals should be stored safely and out of the reach of children.
  • Keep window wells around basement windows clear of clutter and debris.  Be sure gutters funnel water away from your home, so it won’t seep into the basement.
  • If your basement becomes flooded, never wade into the basement unless all electricity has been disconnected.  If you have to turn off power at the breaker box, never stand in water to do so.

basement safety tips

 

Finished basements can be a wonderful asset to a home.  The acoustics are particularly well-suited to home theaters.  Heating and cooling bills tend to be minimal, as temperatures below ground don’t fluctuate very much.  If you’re fortunate enough to have a basement in your home, make it a safe and stylish space that everyone in your household can enjoy.

 

 

 

Garage Safety and Design

Posted in General Information, Home Safety, Safety and Design on April 25th, 2013 by Judy — 4 Comments

Not long ago, most homes had only a one-car detached garage, if they had a garage at all.  The garage door had to be opened manually and the garage was too short and narrow to accomodate a large car or SUV of today.  Fast forward a few decades and we have the attached two and three car garages that are part of today’s new homes.  While it’s great to have the convenience of an attached garage, especially in inclement weather, an attached garage is part of the home and needs to treated as such.  That means your garage should be included in your home safety plan.  As your attached garage is probably the main way you enter and exit your home, it also deserves some attention when it comes to design and storage.  So let’s review some safety and design tips for the all-too-often neglected garage:

neat garage storage

 

  • Make sure your garage has adequate lighting.  Most garages don’t have windows, so good lighting in the garage is essential for safety.  If you have a work space in your garage for projects, be sure it is well lit to avoid eye strain.
  • Be sure all chemicals are stored out of reach of children and pets.
  • As part of your home, your garage should contain a smoke detector and a fire extinguisher.  A fire that starts in your garage can quickly spread to the rest of your house.
  • Shovels, rakes and other gardening tools should be hung on walls for storage.  There are numerous garage wall storage options available for tools, ladders and sporting equipment.  Wall storage opens up floor space in the garage and provides safe storage for potentially dangerous tools.
  • Use overhead storage racks to make full use of garage space.  I have two overhead storage units in my garage and am amazed at the number of boxes they can hold in this otherwise wasted space.
  • Epoxy coated floors are a good way to seal garage floors and allow easy cleanup of spills.  The coatings that contain confetti also increase slip resistance.
  • Don’t leave your keys in your car in the garage.  Your car is the most valuable item in your garage, so take the keys inside.
  • If your garage or garage door has windows, be sure they are covered so no one can see in.  You don’t want potential thieves checking out the contents of your garage.
  • Keep your garage door closed.  A four foot snake got into my garage when I left the door open briefly during a project.  The shriek I let out when I nearly stepped on that snake could have gotten me the lead in a horror film.  Lesson learned.

Finally, if you can no longer park your car in your garage, it may be time for a garage sale.  After all, wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a clean, well-organized garage every time you enter and leave your home?  Time to make some garage sale signs.

 

Outdoor Living Safety and Design

Posted in General Information, Home Safety, Safety and Design on April 11th, 2013 by Judy — 2 Comments

Recently I toured some model homes in a large master-planned community near where I live.  The big selling feature touted in the builder’s ads was “revolutionary disappearing walls,” so I figured I would check them out.  The disappearing walls were the same type often seen in upscale custom homes here in Arizona, but I guess it’s a ‘revolutionary’ idea to have the option of such walls in a tract home.  At any rate, the model homes did a wonderful job of presenting a lifestyle of seamless indoor-outdoor living.  However, I couldn’t help but think about all the insects and reptiles I’ve seen in our backyard that would have access to our house if we didn’t have screens.  Such is the conundrum of seamlessly melding safety, functionality and design.

outdoor living area

All the delights of outdoor living come with safety concerns that need to be addressed.  Here are some outdoor safety and design considerations that should be reckoned with so you can fully enjoy your outdoor living space:

  • Outdoor lighting is crucial to your outdoor living space, both for safety and design.  Whether you have a tiny patio or a sprawling back yard spread, good lighting appropriate to how you use your outdoor space is crucial.  Lights should be rated for outdoor use.  My patio lights and outdoor ceiling fan are on a remote control that can regulate brightness of the lights and fan speed.  It’s especially useful when entertaining.  (Think lights up for last call.)
  • Grills should be at least ten feet from your home and any other structures.  Lighted grills should be supervised at all times.
  • Outdoor patio surfaces should be even enough to avoid trips and falls.  It sounds obvious, but many natural stone surfaces can be uneven and hazardous.  I traded out a bumpy flagstone surface on my patio for pavers, as I was always stumbling on the uneven flagstone.  If you have stepping stones in your yard, they should be level enough with the ground so no one could get hurt stepping off them.
  • Use fire carefully outdoors.  Fire pits are a wonderful outdoor feature and are very popular here in the southwest, but they can be a source of burns and fires.  Tiki torches and outdoor candles can also cause fires, so use them with caution.
  • Place container plants carefully, especially thorny plants such as cactus.  I backed into a cactus on my patio strategically placed so I could see it from my kitchen.  Dumb idea.  You can bet that cactus got moved, and fast.
  • Finally, pool owners, don’t neglect pool safety.  If you have small children, you need a pool fence with a self-closing gate that latches.  Never put any furniture near the fence that a child could use to climb over the fence or unlatch the gate.

Now that we’ve covered our outdoor living safety and design tips, grab the sunscreen and insect repellent and let’s go outside!  Time spent outdoors is time to be cherished.

Lighting Safety and Design

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the lighting created a soft glow that made everyone look good?  I have, and that beautifully illuminated restaurant quickly became one of my favorites.  Lighting can have a powerful, mood-altering effect on us and poorly lit spaces can dull our frame of mind and pose a safety hazard.

lighting enhances safety

My husband is a lighting pro in the film industry, so lighting gets a lot of attention in our house.  Safety is an important component of lighting design, so it’s worth reviewing the lighting features in your home to be sure they meet the needs of everyone in your household.  If you have elderly family members at home, well designed lighting should definitely be a top priority.   Here are a few tips to improve lighting safety for everyone in your household:

  • Use light switches that have lights in the switch.  They are easy to find in the dark, so you’re not stumbling around trying to find the light switch.
  • If you have elderly or physically impaired household members, be sure light switches are accessible.
  • Use automatic night lights that come on when the room is dark.  I use them in bathrooms and hallways and I always bring one along when I’m staying in a hotel.
  • If you’d like lights to come on automatically when you enter a room, install wall switches with occupancy sensors.  These can be especially useful for the elderly and households with kids.
  • Be sure stairways within your home are well lit.  I’ve seen some beautiful lighting fixtures on stairways and stair landings, but often they don’t provide enough light.  Poorly lit stairs are a safety hazard, so make sure safety and design work together in this part of the house.
  • Light bulbs should be easy to change.  If you have can lights in a 10 or 12 foot ceiling, you probably need a light bulb changer on a pole.  You shouldn’t have to climb a ladder to change a light bulb.
  • Your exterior lighting is important for safety, too.  Be sure there are no dark areas around the outside of your house where an intruder could hide.
  • Motion-detecting security lighting is good to have near garages and driveways, especially if you park in a driveway rather than a garage.
  • Brighter isn’t always better in outdoor lighting, as overly bright lights create pockets of deep, dark shadows.  Soft overall landscape lighting is usually best for both appearance and safety.

Lastly, programmable timers and dimmers are my two favorite inventions in the world of lighting.  That’s undoubtedly because timers heighten safety and dimmers enhance design.  A splendid combination.

Furniture Safety and Design

Most people probably don’t think much about the safety of the furniture in their homes, especially if they don’t have small children.  However, it’s worth taking a moment to consider whether your furniture is safe for everyone in your household, even if you don’t have kids.

furniture hazards

I lived in Los Angeles during the Northridge earthquake and was awakened that morning by the sound of large pieces of furniture moving around the house spewing their contents of glass, books and electronics.  Under the right conditions, furniture can be hazardous to your health and safety.  Here are a few tips to be sure your furniture doesn’t pose a threat to the people and pets in your home:

  • Beware of placing televisions and electronic equipment on furniture not designed for that pupose.  Large televisions can easily become unstable and fall over, causing injury.
  • Blanket and toy chests should have safety latches that prevent the lid from slamming shut on your hands or falling freely.
  • Bookcases and other large pieces of furniture should be anchored to the wall.  Do not overload bookcases.
  • Buy the best quality furniture you can afford.  It will be sturdier and better made than cheaper, lower quality furniture.
  • Use recliners safely.  Be sure no children or pets are near the recliner when it’s being opened.  Close the recliner before getting out of it.  Beware of pets lying under the chair and never sit on the footrest.
  • Be sure all tables in your home are sturdy and secure, especially if you have elderly household members.  The elderly often use tables for support when getting up from a seated position and an unstable table can cause injury.
  • Older furniture may contain lead paint, so take precautions if sanding or refinishing it.
  • If you do have small children in your household, anchor dressers to the wall.  Don’t allow children to climb on dresser drawers.  Most furniture tip over accidents involve children.

One safety issue currently under review involves the flame retardants used in upholstered furniture.  Government and independent research has linked toxic chemicals used in these flame retardants to cancer and other health problems.  California officials recently voted to formulate new fire safety rules that would eliminate the use of these chemicals in household furniture and other household products, as the chemicals do not provide meaningful protection from furniture fires while posing numerous health hazards.  New furniture fire safety rules that avoid harmful chemical use should be forthcoming.

Pet Safety and Design

Posted in General Information, Pet Safety, Safety and Design on March 14th, 2013 by Judy — Be the first to comment!

Most pet owners can’t imagine life without their furry family members, but maintaining a clean, safe, beautiful home with pets can be a challenge.  Pets are often left alone all day while their owners work, so the home environment must be safe for them and easy to maintain for their owners.

pet custom couch cover

Designer Elizabeith Lamont makes pet friendly custom couch covers.

So pet owners, I’m happy to report that creative designs abound for accomodating pets and their accessories, and making smart choices in the products you choose for your home will help keep your pets safe.  Here are some of my favorite products and design ideas for living with your pets:

 

Special dog staircase

This home by 07 Beach has a special staircase for dogs.

 

  • Pets need a little space to call their own within your home.  Using the often wasted space under the stairs is a terrific idea for a dog retreat.  It’s also a good idea for quickly containing your dog if, for instance, someone is at the door and you don’t want your dog to escape.
  • Linen is a good pet friendly fabric choice for couches.  Micro-suede, corduroy and velvet hold fur and should probably be avoided.  If your pet has a particular place on the couch they always go to, you may want to consider a custom covering for that area.  (See photo) 
  • Your floors can be a safety hazard for your pets, especially older pets.  Be sure tile and wood surfaces are not so slippery that they’re dangerous for pets and humans.  Pitted stone surfaces are popular flooring choices here in southwest, but difficult to keep clean if you have pets.  Choose flooring material carefully.
  • Your pet’s nose is just inches from the floor, so choose non-toxic floor cleaning products.  Also, pets will often eat any food that falls to the floor in the kitchen, so you don’t want them licking toxic cleaning products.
  •  Think about where your pet be within your home when you’re not there.  Will they be confined to one room or have free rein in the house?  Will they be able to go outside via a pet door?  Inspect your home and yard carefully for any hazards that could threaten your pet’s safety.
  • If you have a cat, consider using plastic tips for their claws.  It will save your furniture and your cat can still use a scratching post.  I swear by them and I have the unclawed sofas to prove how well they work.  The nail tips even come in fun colors.  (See photo)
  • Keep breakables up high.  A pet walking through broken glass and tracking blood throughout the house means an injured pet, a big vet bill and a messy clean up job.  I’ve had it happen and it wasn’t fun for me or my pet.
cat claw tips

Softclaws – a furniture saver for cat owners.

Finally, invest in a good vacuum cleaner.  Unless your pet is hairless, there’s going to be some shedding.  Go with the flow and be thankful for all the love you get in return for a little fur around the house.