Month: January 2014

The art of cleaning quickly


Have you ever been relaxing on the weekend or after work and thought, “I really need to clean this place up?” At that very moment, the phone rings and it’s your friend/Mom/sister who wants to pop by for a moment to return that thing they borrowed/have coffee/talk about what’s happening. And they just won’t take no for an answer.

The panic clean doesn’t have to be a frenzied battle. There are some steps you have to take to make your home look presentable quickly and efficiently.

Prioritize

You don’t need to give your entire home a deep cleaning in 10 minutes but you don’t need to. Focus on the rooms where you and your guest are likely to spend the most time: bathroom, kitchen and living room.

Prepare

If you are a professional procrastinator or cleaning avoidance master, you should gather what you’ll need into one caddy: cloths, magic erasers, spray glass cleaner, and all-purpose cleaner. Keep it at the ready for just such an occasion and stash it under the kitchen sink.

Plan

Use a systematic approach to guarantee that all areas of each room are cleaned without having to retrace your steps. Clean clockwise starting at the left of the door and go from top to bottom.

Proceed

Spray down toilet bowls, countertops, stovetop and sinks first to give it time to loosen surface stains.

Pick up

After you’ve sprayed everything down, take a couple of minutes to fill an empty laundry basket with all the random stuff lying in the living room and entryway. Keep a box handy for collecting mail and magazines separate. Dust the surfaces as you go.

Polish the bathroom

Focus on the toilet, sink and mirror. You’ve already sprayed the toilet and sink; wipe them down and then work on the mirror. Store bathroom products in a small basket under the sink, just while your guest is there.

Plates and bowls

Time to make the kitchen presentable. Wipe down the surfaces you’ve already sprayed, then put all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher if you haven’t had time to run a load. Don’t worry, you’re only using it for temporary storage.

Perfect

The details will make it look like you didn’t just spend 15 minutes frantically cleaning. Arrange magazines and fluff pillows and put them neatly on the couch and chairs to give your room a finished look.

Power vacuum

Running the vacuum will not only catch any dust that fell on the floor, it is the best way to give the most noticeable thing in your home – the carpet – a quick refresh.

All you need is some planning and preparation and 10-15 minutes to give the major rooms in your home a quick cleaning to make it look more presentable for your guest.

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How to prevent frozen pipes and what to do if a pipe bursts


When the temperature reaches freezing, this can cause the water inside pipes to freeze. As the water freezes, it expands causing the pressure inside the pipes to increase. Frozen pipes is a minor inconvenience; a pipe that bursts is a homeowner’s nightmare.

Water lines are particularly susceptible to freezing when the temperature outside gets cold very quickly because the warmth from your heating system is unable to keep up with the demand the suddenly cold temperatures bring. Homes in more temperate climates are also susceptible when the temperature dips below freezing. Because they are typically warmer, water pipes may not be insulated as well as they should be.

Preventing frozen pipes

  • Insulate pipes, especially those close to outside walls, attics or crawl spaces where the chance of freezing is greatest.
  • Seal any air leaks near the pipes.
  • If there are water supply lines in your garage, keep the garage doors closed.
  • Always remember to drain, disconnect and store garden hoses.
  • Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs.
  • Open the cabinet doors in kitchen and bathroom – this lets warmer air circulate around the plumbing.
  • Maintain thermostat at 55 degrees or higher when you are out of town.
  • If you get a cold snap, turn on both hot and cold faucets near outside walls allowing a small trickle of water to run during the night.
  • Identify the locations of shutoff valves so that you are prepared to stop the flow of water as soon as possible when a pipe bursts.

If pipes freeze:

  • Thaw a frozen pipe using a good hair dryer. However, avoid using a hair dryer around standing water.
  • Heat water on the stove, soak towels in the hot water and wrap them around the pipe.
  • When thawing a pipe, start nearer to the faucet and work your way back.
  • Turn on the faucet so water can drip out as the ice melts.
  • If you have one frozen pipe, chances are that you may have more. Check all other faucets in your home.

If pipes burst:

  • Shut off the water at the main valve.
  • Take precautions to avoid electrical shock from being in or near standing water.
  • If the break is in a hot water pipe, the valve on top of the water heater should be closed.
  • Call a plumber.
  • Take inventory of any damaged property.
  • Contact your insurance agent to help you locate an emergency water mitigation specialist who can dry out the damaged area quickly.

Unusual things that your homeowner’s insurance may cover


Insurance is one of those things you have to buy and hope you never use. Homeowner’s insurance is no different.

If you’re like most homeowners, you never take the time to read the fine print of the policy. This could be costly. There’s a good chance that your loss may be covered. Even something that you think “There’s no way it will be covered.” It just may.

Here are some of those things…

Accidental damage or injury

Most people know that their homeowner’s policy will cover injury or damage that occurs in the home, but many don’t know that your policy can cover things that occur, even outside the realm of your home.

Student property

When your kids go away to college and live in dorms, they’re going to take most of their stuff with them, naturally. Your homeowner’s policy may protect their expensive gadgets such as phones, tablets and computers when they go.

Collections

If you have a really extensive (and expensive) collection, you may have to get additional coverage. But if you have a collection of pigs that people gave you because you’re from Arkansas and lose those mementos in a fire, they should be covered.

Expensive cooking ingredients

If you’re a foodie, you may have ingredients in your kitchen that are both unusual and pricy. The internet makes it possible to buy things like truffles, saffron, cheese, and imported olive oil. If you’re a foodie, make sure to save your receipts, just in case.

Dog bites

You’re hosting a dinner party and the family dog gets excited with all the people around and jumps on a guest and bites her. So if medical treatment is needed, check your policy to see if you’re covered.

Interior designer fees

It’s happened before. A homeowner does a major renovation to their home and just as soon as the project is complete, disaster strikes. Your policy may cover fees you paid to the decorator, not just for the furniture and décor.

Of course, these are just a few examples of what may be covered. Make sure to read your homeowner’s insurance policy, especially the fine print. It’s a good idea to know what’s covered and what isn’t. If you do happen to incur some damage, it never hurts to contact your agent to ask.

Creating a fire evacuation plan


Whether you have children or live alone, in a duplex or a two-story house, it’s a good idea to make a plan for how to evacuate your home.

If you work in an office building, chances are your company has a fire drill at least once a year. If you have kids, their schools have fire drills at least twice a year. Why not do the same thing at home?

With a proper plan and by practicing regularly, you increase the odds that everyone gets out safely in case of a fire in your home.

Tips for making a fire escape map

Any time you stay at a hotel, you’ve probably noticed a fire escape map on the door of the hotel room. It makes perfect sense to draw a map that shows the exits for every room in your home. It’s easy and there are plenty of options online to help you draw one up. Check out NFPA for more safety tips and advice about creating a fire escape map.

Maps should include:

  • Two escape routes for each room in the home.
  • Locations of fire extinguishers in the home.
  • Meeting place outside the home to meet in case of fire.
  • Emergency phone numbers.

After you make a fire escape map

Put the map in the bedrooms and common areas of your home, including the bathroom and kitchen.

Have a discussion with the members of the family to discuss the map and what is expected of everyone if a fire were to happen. Make sure everyone knows where to meet and the emergency phone number.

Above all, make sure to practice. If it’s your first time, do it during the day. Make sure everyone knows the escape routes for each room of the house.

A few weeks later, run through everything again at night. Why? Because most deadly fires occur at night. Knowing this fact is another good reason to make sure that your smoke detectors are installed and working properly.

Do a fire drill four times a year.

Proper planning, practicing, and making sure that everyone knows what to do can mean the difference between everyone getting out safely and a disaster that no one wants to think about.

Avoid snow shoveling accidents this winter


With much of the U.S. getting its first snowfall of the year, people in many areas are getting the white stuff that don’t normally see it.

Clearing the driveway is a rite of passage for many homeowners. According to WebMD.com, snow shoveling injuries send more than 11,000 adults and children to the hospital every year.

Common injuries

Not to sound like a medical disclaimer, but a number of injuries, and even death, can occur while shoveling. Many of the injuries, of course, involve slip and falls, but many are due to technique and the physical demands.

  • Cuts and bruises
  • Broken bones
  • Lower back injuries, ranging from back spasms to much more serious herniated disks
  • Heart-related issues, which accounted for all deaths
  • Head injuries due to flying snow shovels, most victims are children

Why injuries occur

Believe it or not, shoveling snow is great exercise. You’re using every muscle in your body from legs to arms to core to your heart. (Yes… it’s cardio exercise, too!)

The problem is that people don’t use the proper technique – or the proper tools – when shoveling. Most snow shovels are not long enough and not ergonomically designed for efficient use.

How to limit injuries

The cardinal rule when it comes to shoveling snow is to practice a bit of common sense.

  • Stay in shape – People who are physically fit have less concern about injury.
  • Stretch beforehand – Warm up the legs, back and shoulders.
  • Take breaks – Don’t do it all at once. Shovel small areas and take an occasional break, especially if it is wet, heavy snow.
  • Use proper technique – Use the shovel like a bulldozer, rather than a scoop. Use your legs rather than your back. Don’t rotate or twist your body.
  • Use the right shovel – Ergonomically designed shovels with bent handles take the stress off the back.
  • Wear layers – Keeping your muscles warm will help you avoid strain.
  • Wear proper footwear – Wear snow boots with good traction to avoid slipping.