Month: February 2014

Home hazards and how to get rid of them


Although there are many things around the house that many homeowners concentrate on, which are highly visible, there are things that they can’t see that pose a higher risk. Here are six problems that pose a danger to you, your family and your home that you’ll want to avoid and swiftly remedy if they show up at your home.

Asbestos

Asbestos was used in electrical insulation and in building insulation and is typically uncovered in the basements and attics of homes built before the 1970’s. It has been linked to serious health problems, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you uncover asbestos that you can’t avoid or if you are unsure if your house contains asbestos, find a certified asbestos consultant in your area and request a home evaluation.

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. In high concentrations, it is toxic to humans and animals. Detectors are available at home improvement and hardware stores. Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed on each level of your home, including the basement.

Lead

One of the most dangerous substances to children in homes built before 1980 is lead paint. You can buy lead test kits at home improvement and hardware stores. If you find that your home has lead paint, hire a certified professional to remove and dispose of it.

Mold

One of the hazards most often faced by homeowners is mold, which is caused by excessive moisture build-up due to flooding, leaky roofs and indoor plumbing issues. Mold is often undetectable and can cause allergic reactions and long-term health problems. Minor mold can be eradicated with soap and water or bleach-to-water solution composed of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach. If you experience a major water issue, have a water mitigation specialist come out to dry affected areas.

Radon

Linked to lung cancer, radon is a radioactive gas that is produced from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It seeps into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. There are many radon testing kits available and if your home tests positive, hire a consultant immediately.

Termites

Termites are attracted to wood, moisture accumulation near the foundation and dead plant material left on the ground. The sign to look for is the damage they cause to wood, especially door and window frames. Maintenance and prevention is crucial, but when faced with infestation, you need to call in a seasoned professional who specializes in eradicating termites.

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Talking dirty: Places in our homes that we need to clean more often


It’s easy to think of toilets, sinks, countertops and floors when you’re thinking about cleaning the house. But the surfaces of some areas in your home are breeding grounds for all kinds of germs, bacteria and mold.

Here are some areas of your home that you may not clean regularly, but need to start.

Bedding

Dust mites collect over time in mattresses; so many, in fact, that the weight of your mattress can double in 10 years. Exposure to dust mites can cause allergic reactions, sinus pain and even asthma attacks. Experts recommend using dust mite-proof casings on pillows and mattresses.

Blinds

Window blinds are great places for dust to collect, which can lead to allergy attacks. Make sure to dust every two weeks with a lamb’s wool or microfiber duster.

Comforter

Most people forget to wash the comforter on their bed. It should be laundered once a month to remove germs and allergens.

Computer area

It’s said that a messy desktop is a sign of genius. Not really. It can be a sign of bacteria, germs and maybe mold, especially if you eat at your desk. Keep disinfecting wipes around so you can clean your desk and electronic wipes to keep equipment clean.

Lights

Bugs inevitably find their way to lamps and end up dying in the fixtures of floor lamps and overhead lights. Make sure to de-bug when you dust.

Remote control

Think about who handles the remote control, how often and when. Remotes should be wiped down with electronics wipes several times a week.

Refrigerator coil

The coils are located in the back or behind the base grille and if they get covered in dust, they won’t release heat, which makes the compressor work harder. Eventually, the refrigerator will not be able to maintain proper temperature. Brush-off the dust and vacuum the coils every six months.

Shower

Even though the shower is most generally associated with cleanliness, it’s a prime environment for mold and mildew. Make sure your bathroom is properly ventilated.

Trash cans

Indoor trash cans should be washed at least monthly to combat germs and bacteria. Fill the cans with hot water and dish soap. Let them sit for an hour, then wipe dry. Spray the inside with disinfectant before putting a new bag in.

Walls

Walls can be a place where dust gathers, especially around crown molding and baseboards.

Washing machines

Mold can be a problem in the new, front-load washing machines, especially around the door. Wipe down the door regularly and leave the door open between loads so it can dry out properly. Consider running a sanitize cycle with bleach to disinfect the machine once a month.

Sounds like you should get that checked out

Hearing a strange sound in your home is always disconcerting, especially at night or if you’re in the basement. Some sounds are natural. Homes are built of many different materials that make noises as they expand and contract.

If your home is making noises louder than a knuckle popping, it could be a sign that there’s a problem that needs immediate attention. Here are the sounds you don’t want to hear.

Hissing

A possible gas leak could be indicated by a hissing sound. This is something you definitely don’t want to mess around with. Don’t even mess around with trying to shut it off. Get out of the house and call a professional to come out ASAP.

Clanking

When you turn on the heat in the fall, it’s very likely that it will make a little noise. If you hear knocking or clanking, it could be a sign that the circulator pump is about to fail. Call an HVAC service technician and get them out there ASAP.

Scratching

If you hear a strange scratching sound coming from behind the walls, it’s a good indication that you’ve got critters such as mice, squirrels or raccoons taking up residence. Set traps or call a specialist ASAP. They can spread disease and cause damage to the home if not removed.

Bubbling

Any time the water heater makes a weird sound is an indication that it needs attention. A bubbling or cracking sound usually means that you’ve got sediment built up in the tank. You should flush the tank at least once a year. This gets rid of the sediment and extends the life of your water heater.

Whistling

No, your heater doesn’t think you look great. That whistling sound means your heater is working too hard to pull air in. Replace your filters every three months.

Running water when no one’s running water

This could indicate a busted pipe. Shut off the main; if the sound goes away, you’ve got a leak. Call a plumber. A leak can cause damage and promote the growth of mold.

The secret to good gardening is . . . lasagna?


If you’re considering putting in a new garden and want to keep it as environmentally-friendly as possible, you might want to consider prepping the ground this year and plant next year.

Creating a great garden space can’t just happen overnight. Getting the soil ready for planting a garden takes some time, work, and organic matter to make some garden lasagna.

What is lasagna gardening?

Building your garden soil through a process similar to composting lies at the heart of lasagna gardening. Made popular two decades ago by a book written by Patricia Lanza called – what else? – “Lasagna Gardening.”

Rather than bringing in yards of soil, Lanza reasoned, you build the soil from the ground up by adding alternating layers of nitrogen-rich (green) and carbon-rich (brown) organic matter. The green layer can include grass clippings, kitchen compost, coffee grounds and herbivorous manure. The brown layer includes fallen leaves, straw, newspaper and even shredded cardboard. Each layer should be at least an inch thick.

Making garden lasagna

This is the perfect time of year to start your soil for a new garden. It will take about a year for your soil to be completely ready. The process is simple.

  1. Mark off your garden plot.
  2. Using a shovel, turn over the soil about a foot deep and break up the sod.
  3. Rake all your leftover leaves from the winter into the spot. Better yet, mulch them to create your first brown layer. Save a week’s worth of newspapers and add a bale of straw and you’ve got a pretty good first layer.
  4. Ask your neighbors to catch their first mow grass clippings to add to your first green layer. You may have to buy a couple of bags of manure to get enough to make a good layer.
  5. Don’t compress the layers. You want to make sure your lasagna is getting enough air and water to aid in the breakdown.
  6. PRO TIP: Don’t add more green than brown; your soil will turn acidic.
  7. You can make as few or as many layers as you want.
  8. When you get to the last layer, cover it in brown matter or soil.
  9. Water it down to start the process.
  10. Walk away – for a year – and let nature take its course.

It’s perfectly fine to plant in the decomposing mulch in the first year. By next year, the soil will be perfect.