Spring Home Maintenance Checklist
Give your home a complete physical—inside and out—to ready it for those warm-weather months ahead.
Roof. You don’t need to climb up there yourself; with binoculars and a keen eye, you can probably spot trouble. Do you see any shingle-shift, suggesting that some fasteners may have failed and need replacing? Any cracked or missing shingles? What about nail-pops? “We call them eyebrows,” Niles explains. “It’s when nails push the tabs of the shingles up, allowing water to get in where those nails are coming through.” All will need to be addressed to keep your roof at peak performance.
Chimneys. If you have a masonry chimney, check the joints between bricks or stones. Have any fallen out? Is there vegetation growing out of them? Each signals water infiltration. Also, look for efflorescence—”a white calcium-like deposit that indicates your masonry joints are no longer repelling water but absorbing it,” says Niles. Consider re-sealing masonry with a clear, impermeable or water-resistant barrier material (like Thoroseal products). Brush it on, small areas at a time; let it absorb for 15 minutes, then reapply—it may need a couple of applications.
Exterior Walls. Whether you have wood siding, stucco or brick, look for trouble spots, especially under eaves and near gutter downspouts. Water stains normally indicate that your gutters are not adequately containing roof runoff. If you have wood siding, check for openings, damaged areas or knots that have popped out, making way for carpenter ants, woodpeckers and other critters that may nest in or burrow through.
Foundations. When inspecting the exterior of your home, be sure to examine the foundation from top to bottom for masonry cracks. “Routine caulking by homeowners won’t do the job,” says Niles. “Hire a foundation specialist who can employ a two-part epoxy injection system that will bond cracks chemically,” he adds.
Windows. Leakage around windows will admit warm summer air and let cooled indoor air escape, so be sure to check that any caulking and weather stripping you have in place has remained intact. “A tight seal is the first line of defense against air and water,” says Marty Davis, marketing manager, Simonton Windows, Columbus, OH. If you experienced condensation inside the glass on double- or triple-glazed windows during the winter months, the weather seal has been compromised, and either the glass or the window will need to be replaced.
Spring-clean your windows—inside and out—with a store-bought or homemade window cleaner (one cup rubbing alcohol, one cup water and a tablespoon of white wine vinegar will work just fine) and either a squeegee or a soft cloth. Never use abrasive cleaners or a high-pressure spray washer. You don’t want to scratch the glass or crack the caulking around each unit. If screens were on all winter, remove and clean them with mild detergent. Lay them on a dry surface, like a driveway to air-dry before putting them back on. “Never power-wash screens,” urges Davis, “it could damage the mesh.”
General Cleaning. Spring is a good time to clean areas of the house that often go neglected. Dust or vacuum chair rails, window casings, tops of wall-mounted cabinets and ceiling fans. Launder or dry-clean fabric draperies and use a damp cloth to clean wood and vinyl blinds. Vacuum upholstered furniture and mattresses and consider renting a carpet cleaner—anything you can do to remove settled dust, mites, and allergens will make for a cleaner, and healthier, home.
If you detect grease residue in the kitchen, consider washing cabinets, backsplashes and walls with warm water and mild detergent. The same is true in the bathroom, where soap residue and fluctuations in heat and humidity combine to create the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. While you’re cleaning tile, look for areas of worn or missing grout, as these may lead to more serious water damage if not repaired.
Air Conditioning. Just as you readied your furnace for fall, now is the time to make sure that air conditioning units are in good working order for the warmer months ahead. Change the filter, check hose connections for leaks, and make sure the drain pans are draining freely. In addition, vacuum any dust that has settled on the unit and connections; over time it can impact the air conditioner’s effectiveness. If you suspected problems with the efficiency or performance of the unit last summer, now is the time to call in a professional to check it out.
Attics. Search for signs that indicate insects and critters have colonized. Also, search aggressively for mold, which often takes the form of “gray or black blotches that look like staining,” according to Tim Gentry, vice president of technical services, DaVinci Roofscapes, Kansas City, KS. Proper insulation and good ventilation will deter mold growth in the attic, so take action now to prevent the problem from developing in the warmer months ahead.
Basements. The basement—prone to dampness and insects—must be part of any thorough seasonal maintenance effort. Dampness suggests higher than normal relative humidity, inadequate ventilation and the need for a dehumidifier. Check the base of poured-concrete walls. “Cracks start from the bottom up, not the top down,” Niles points out. “If there’s water penetration, it’ll show at the bottom of those cracks.” And be sure to use a flashlight to examine exposed framing. “If you see even a quarter-inch or so of tunneling on the wood,” says Niles, “call a pest control company immediately.”
Leaks. Spring is a good time to check for leaky faucets, clogged drains and sweaty pipes. Check under the kitchen and bathroom sink to make sure connections on pipes and hoses are properly sealed, and look for any wetness around the dishwasher that could signal an existing or potential problem. The same is true of your laundry room; check washer machine hoses for cracks, bulges or dampness. The same is true for hot water heaters, which may show sign of corrosion and leaks.
Lawns. Rake the lawn to remove any branches, debris and leaves that you might have missed in the fall; if left, they can suffocate the grass beneath. During the winter, soil compaction, along with chemical changes altering your soil’s PH, may have left your lawn vulnerable to weed growth and other issues. Even if you can’t see weeds, they are more than likely waiting for optimum conditions to propagate. If you want to prevent them from germinating, consider an organic herbicide; fertilizers are better suited to the fall.
Make sure outdoor water systems—pipes, faucets, and in-ground sprinkler systems—are in working order. Once the ground thaws completely, start preparing new garden beds for summer plants. And take stock of your garden tools and lawn-maintenance equipment, including lawn mowers, trimmers and hoses.
Decks and Patios. Look for warped, loose or splintered boards, and do a good sweep to remove any leaves and debris accumulated in the space between boards. “Whether it’s wood, plastic or composite, a deck should be cleaned every year to extend its life,” says Chuck Harris, owner, Custom Lumber Manufacturing Co., Dothan, AL. If the finish on your wood deck is faded or worn, now is the time to clean, stain, and reseal it. If you have composite decking, follow manufacturers’ recommendations on seasonal care. The same is true for wood and composite fences, pergolas, trellises and other structures. If you have a stone patio, a simple hose down provide be all the maintenance required (unless you detect moss or staining, in which case a more serious cleaning may be necessary).
Outdoor Furniture. If you stored your lawn furniture for the winter, bring it outdoors and give it a hose rinse, or wash it with a mild detergent. For metal furniture, check for signs of rust or paint erosion; a simple remedy of spray enamel will prevent further damage from sun, rain and humidity in the months ahead.
Grills. If your gas grill has remained idle over the winter months, check burner jets for clogs and obstructions, and be sure that gas hoses and connections are sound and secure. You’ll also want to check for propane. For charcoal grill owners, make certain your grill is clean of ash and free of grease residue. It’s a good habit to adopt throughout the grilling season, not just in the spring.
Hurricane Preparedness Week – May 7-13, 2017
Sunday, May 7th
Determine Your Risk
Find out today what types of wind and water hazards could happen where you live, and then start preparing now for how to handle them. Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. Their impacts can be felt hundreds of miles inland. It’s easy to forget what a hurricane is capable of doing. The U.S. has not been directly impacted by a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) in more than a decade. However, hurricanes such as Ike, Sandy and Isaac reminded us that significant impacts can occur without it being a major hurricane. Many people are suffering from hurricane amnesia in the forms of complacency, denial and inexperience. This remarkable hurricane streak is going to end, and we have to be ready for it to happen this season.
Monday, May 8th
Develop an Evacuation Plan
The first thing you need to do is find out if you live in a storm surge hurricane evacuation zone or if you’re in a home that would be unsafe during a hurricane. If you are, figure out where you’d go and how you’d get there if told to evacuate. You do not need to travel hundreds of miles. Identify someone, perhaps a friend or relative who doesn’t live in a zone or unsafe home, and work it out with them to use their home as your evacuation destination. Be sure to account for your pets, as most local shelters do not permit them. Put the plan in writing for you and those you care about.
Tuesday, May 9th
Assemble Disaster Supplies
You’re going to need supplies not just to get through the storm but for the potentially lengthy and unpleasant aftermath. Have enough non-perishable food, water and medicine to last each person in your family a minimum of one week. Electricity and water could be out for at least that long. You’ll need extra cash, a battery-powered radio and flashlights. Many of us have cell phones, and they all run on batteries. You’re going to need a portable, crank or solar powered USB charger.
Wednesday, May 10th
Secure an Insurance Check-up
Call your insurance company or agent and ask for an insurance check-up to make sure you have enough homeowners insurance to repair or even replace your home. Don’t forget coverage for your car or boat. Remember, standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, you’ll need a separate policy for it, and it’s available through your company, agent or the National Flood Insurance Program at www.floodsmart.gov. Act now as flood insurance requires a 30-day waiting period.
Thursday, May 11th
Strengthen Your Home
If you plan to ride out the storm in your home, make sure it is in good repair and up to local hurricane building code specifications. Many of these retrofits do not cost much or take as long to do as you may think. Have the proper plywood, steel or aluminum panels to board up the windows and doors. Remember, the garage door is the most vulnerable part of the home, so it must be able to withstand the winds.
Friday, May 12th
Check on Your Neighbor
Many Americans rely on their neighbors after a disaster, but there are also many ways you can help your neighbors before a hurricane approaches. Learn about all the different actions you and your neighbors can take to prepare and recover from the hazards associated with hurricanes. Start the conversation now with these Neighbor Helping Neighbor strategies
Saturday, May 13th
Complete Your Written Hurricane Plan
The time to prepare for a hurricane is before the season begins, when you have the time and are not under pressure. If you wait until a hurricane is on your doorstep, the odds are that you will be under duress and will make the wrong decisions. Take the time now to write down your hurricane plan. Know where you will ride out the storm and get your supplies now. You don’t want to be standing in long lines when a hurricane warning is issued. Those supplies that you need will probably be sold out by the time you reach the front of the line. Being prepared, before a hurricane threatens, makes you resilient to the hurricane impacts of wind and water. It will mean the difference between your being a hurricane victim and a hurricane survivor.
What Causes Frozen Pipes?
What Causes Frozen Pipes?
The water inside pipes can freeze when outdoor temperatures drop below freezing. As freezing water expands, it causes the pressure inside the pipes to increase, possibly leading to bursting pipes.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
- Insulate pipes, especially those close to outside walls, attics or crawl spaces where the chance of freezing is greatest
- Seal air leaks surrounding or near pipes
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage
- Disconnect all outdoor hoses and turn off water to exterior faucets and sprinkler systems
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing
- Keep heat at 55 degrees F. or higher even when you are out of town
- During a cold spell turn on both hot and cold faucets near outside walls to allow a small trickle of water to run during the night
- If you need to be away from home, leave the heat on and drain your water system before you go
- 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
What to Do When Pipes Freeze or Burst
If pipes freeze:
- Open all faucets
- Remove insulation and wrap pipes in rags
- If all else fails, call your plumber
If pipes burst:
- Shut off the water immediately to prevent additional damage
- Take proper precautions to avoid an electrical shock from being in or near standing water
- Take an inventory of any damaged property or possessions
- Contact the professionals at SERVPRO of Medford/Everett for help at 781-395-4444.
- We’ll make it “Like it never even happened
Thanksgiving Safety Tips
Thanksgiving is almost here and across the country, Americans are gearing up for one of the most spectacular feasts of the year. Thanksgiving is a holiday that brings family and friends together to share good food, conversation, and laughter. In the midst of all this festive activity, it’s important to remember that there are health hazards associated with the holiday, including an increased chance of food poisoning, kitchen fires, and travel incidents.
Taking just a few minutes to read these Thanksgiving safety tips could mean the difference between enjoying the holiday and having a turkey dinner end in disaster.
The average number of cooking fires on Thanksgiving is TRIPLE that of a normal day. Here a few simple ways to avoid fires:
- “Stand by your pan” when cooking. Never leave food, grease, or oils cooking on the stovetop unattended.
- Pot holders, oven mitts, food wrappers, and other things that can catch fire should be kept away from the stove.
- Children should also be kept away from hot stoves and paid particular attention to when they are in the kitchen.
- Facing pot handles towards the rear of the stove can save them from being knocked over and scalding people nearby.
- Long sleeves and loose clothing should be avoided while cooking as it can easily catch fire.Following these food safety tips can keep any Thanksgiving meal safe from bacteria and keep your family and friends from getting sick:
- Safely cooking a turkey starts with correctly defrosting it; place your bird on a tray or pan to catch any juices and keep it refrigerated until it’s ready to cook.
- A 20-pound frozen turkey can take up to five days to thaw out so plan ahead.
- Turkeys need to be cooked to an internal temperate of 165 °F.
- Leftovers need to be refrigerated within two hours after serving.The Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest travel times of the year, and with all the excitement travelers can become more focused on celebrations than getting to their destination as safely as possible. Following these travel tips will keep everyone safe on the road and in the air:
Thanksgiving Travel Safety
Halloween Safety Tips
- Be bright at night – wear retro-reflective tape on costumes and treat buckets to improve visibility to motorists and others.
- Wear disguises that don’t obstruct vision, and avoid facemasks. Instead, use nontoxic face paint. Also, watch the length of billowy costumes to help avoid tripping.
- Ensure any props are flexible and blunt-tipped to avoid injury from tripping or horseplay.
- Carry a flashlight containing fresh batteries, and place it facedown in the treat bucket to free up one hand. Never shine it into the eyes of oncoming drivers.
- Stay on sidewalks and avoid walking in streets if possible.
- If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic.
- Look both ways and listen for traffic before crossing the street.
- Cross streets only at the corner, and never cross between parked vehicles or mid-block.
- Trick-or-treat in a group if someone older cannot go with you.
- Tell your parents where you are going.
- Ensure an adult or older, responsible youth is available to supervise children under age 12.
- Plan and discuss the route your trick-or-treaters will follow.
- Instruct children to travel only in familiar areas and along established routes.
- Teach children to stop only at well-lit houses and to never to enter a stranger’s home or garage.
- Establish a time for children to return home.
- Tell children not to eat any treats until they get home.
- Review trick-or-treating safety precautions, including pedestrian and traffic safety rules.
- Make sure Halloween costumes are flame-retardant and visible with retro-reflective material.
- Slow down in residential neighborhoods and obey all traffic signs and signals. Drive at least 5 mph below the posted speed limit to give yourself extra time to react to children who may dart into the street.
- Watch for children walking on roadways, medians and curbs. In dark costumes, they’ll be harder to see at night.
- Look for children crossing the street. They may not be paying attention to traffic and cross the street mid-block or between parked cars.
- Carefully enter and exit driveways and alleys.
- Turn on your headlights to make yourself more visible – even in the daylight.
- Broaden your scanning by looking for children left and right into yards and front porches.
Don’t Wait: Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years!
You replace your cell phone, your lightbulbs – even your toothbrush. But when was the last time you replaced – or thought about replacing – your home's smoke alarms?
While smoke alarm lifespan and sensing technology has vastly improved in recent years, the fact remains that all smoke alarms expire after 10 years. However, nearly a quarter of Americans (23 percent) have either never replaced their smoke alarms – or have not done so in more than six years. This, coupled with the fact that three out of five home fire deaths occur in properties without working smoke alarms – often due to missing alarm batteries or expired alarms – is cause for concern for local fire and safety officials.
"Many people assume that because they have smoke alarms in their homes, they're automatically protected in the event of a fire," said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA. "In reality, smoke alarms need to be installed, maintained and tested regularly to ensure that they're working properly. Part of that effort includes knowing how old your smoke alarms are, because smoke alarms don't last forever."
NFPA 72, National Signaling and Fire Alarm Code®, requires that residential smoke alarms be replaced at least every 10 years, but because the public is generally unaware of this requirement, many homes may have smoke alarms well past their expiration dates. To find out whether it's time to replace the smoke alarms in your home, simply look on the back of the alarms where the date of manufacture is marked. The smoke alarm should be replaced 10 years from that date (not the date of purchase or installation).
If alarms are due for replacement, consider upgrading your level of protection with devices containing 10-year sealed batteries, which offer tamper-proof, hassle-free protection while eliminating the need to replace batteries for the life of the alarms. For ultimate home safety, select combination smoke/carbon monoxide (CO) alarm models for complete protection from the threats of smoke and CO. A variety of smoke alarms, including hardwired, combination and 10-year battery-powered models, are available to meet specific needs and local
National Preparedness Month: Week Four – Get Involved
September is National Preparedness Month
Week Four – Get Involved
Build a more resilient community by getting involved and helping your community prepare for, respond to, and recover from the next disaster. There are many great opportunities to make important contributions including volunteering, donating or helping our neighbors and community.
- Donate cash to a recognized disaster relief organization.
- Donate goods that are specifically requested or needed by recognized organizations.
- Learn more about how to donate responsibly: Donations and Volunteers
Help your Neighbors
- Be a good neighbor. Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions and those who may need additional assistance.
- Start a community preparedness project with the Corporation for National & Community Service toolkit.
National Preparedness Month: Week Three – Build an Emergency
September is National Preparedness Month
Week Three – Build an Emergency Kit
Build an Emergency Kit:
Having an emergency supply kit is an essential component of personal and family preparedness Emergency kits should include essentials items that will help sustain you and your family for up to three days in the event you are isolated in your home without power during disaster.
First, think about essential items you will need for basic survival: water, food, warmth, clean air, and necessary medications, or medical equipment. Additionally, utilities and basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may be cut off for days or weeks. Your supply kit should contain items to help you manage during these outages. Make sure your emergency kit is customized to meet the unique needs of your family.
At a minimum your kit should include:
- Water: Bottled water (one gallon per person/per day for at least three days), water purification tablets
- Food: At least a three-day supply of non-perishable foods that do not need cooking (ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, or juices, protein or granola bars, cereal, peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, baby food, comfort foods)
- Tools and Supplies: Manual can opener, Radio (battery-powered or hand crank), flashlight or lantern, extra batteries, cell phone with charger, wrench, pliers, and other basic tools
- Personal Items: Prescription medications (two-week supply), personal hygiene items, eyeglasses, contact lenses, dentures, extra batteries or supplies for medical equipment, change of clothes, sturdy shoes
- Pets: Collar, leash, harness, crate, food, bowls, current photo, license and medical information
- Documents: Insurance policies, bank account records, identification cards (IDs), medical information, and other copies of important documents
- Money: Extra cash and traveler’s checks (ATMs may not work during a power outage)
- Other Items: First-aid kit, emergency whistle, waterproof matches/lighter, local area maps, diapers, wipes, formula, and baby food and supplies (if needed)
Also consider adding:
- A watch or clock
- Household chlorine bleach, which can serve as an emergency disinfectant of drinking water
- Camp stove or grill with fuel or canned heat, neither of which should be used indoors
- Disposable plates, cups, and utensils
- Duct tape, plastic sheeting or tarp
- Seasonal items to protect against the elements
- Books, games, puzzles, and other comfort items
- Sleeping bags or blankets.
National Preparedness Month: Week Two - Make A Plan
September is National Preparedness Month
Week Two – Make A Plan
When an emergency or disaster occurs, will you be ready? It is critical that you create a family disaster plan to keep you and your family safe, protect your property, and build your community’s resilience.
Develop a plan with the members of your household to prepare for what to do, how to find each other, and how to communicate in an emergency. Be sure your plan addresses the special and/or medical needs for you and your family.
Establish Meeting Locations
Select two family meeting locations where your family can reunite after a disaster.
- Choose one close to home
- Second farther away, in case you are asked to evacuate or can’t return to the area.
Develop an Emergency Contact Plan
Ask an out-of-state friend or relative to serve as your family’s emergency contact. After a disaster, it is sometimes easier to call long distance to unaffected areas.
- Provide every family member with the name, address, and phone number of the emergency contact and make sure each family member has a cellphone or a prepaid phone card.
- Inform your emergency contact of any family member’s special needs or medical issues.
List emergency contacts in cellphones as “ICE” (in case of emergency), which will make it easier for emergency management personnel to contact the right person in case of an emergency responder needs to make a call on your behalf.
Identify alternate communications methods:
- Show all family members how to text message, as it may be easier to send a text than make a call during an emergency.
- Learn how to use social media, which can be an effective tool to let friends and family know your location and status.
- You can use the American Red Cross's Safe and Well service to register yourself as “safe and well” or search for loved ones after a disaster.
Plan How to Evacuate
Identify and practice how you will exit your home.
Establish possible evacuation routes to ensure you are able to get to your designated meeting location(s).
Identify available modes of transportation.
Make arrangements with family, neighbors, friends, or local government if you don’t have personal transportation.
If you need assistance, contact your local public safety official to make them aware of your needs.
Plan How to Shelter in Place
Designate safe room(s) within your home. They should have:
- as few windows or doors as possible; and
- access to television, radio, and telephones.
Make sure you have necessary supplies and can access your emergency kit.
If you receive medical treatments or home health care services, work with your medical provider to determine how to maintain care and service if you are unable to leave your home for a period of time.
Consider Everyone’s Needs
Plan for everyone in your household, including individuals with access and functional needs, seniors, children, and pets.
If you or someone close to you has a disability or other access or functional need, you may need to take additional steps to prepare yourself and your family.
September is National Preparedness Month
The month of September is National Preparedness Month, a nationwide, month-long effort hosted by FEMA, the Ready Campaign and Citizen Corps, encouraging households, businesses and communities to prepare and plan for emergencies.
Massachusetts experiences a wide range of emergencies and disasters. In the past few years alone, the state has seen flooding, hurricanes and tropical storms, blizzards and winter storms, tornadoes, hazardous materials incidents, power outages, terrorism, water supply disruptions and more. In addition, there are many other hazards that could occur including earthquakes, pandemics and other public health emergencies, nuclear power plant accidents and others. It is important for residents of Massachusetts to be Ready for various types of emergencies and disasters including knowing what the risks are, and what to do before, during, and after various types of emergencies and how to be prepared ahead of time.
There are four key things to be prepared for emergencies:
Be Informed – Know what emergencies may occur and stay informed
Make A Plan – Plan for your family before an emergency
Build a Kit – Assemble an emergency kit
Get Involved – Volunteer opportunities in emergency preparedness and response
Today we will talk about various ways to “Be Informed”
Massachusetts Alerts Smartphone App
The free Massachusetts Alerts app provides emergency notifications and public safety information based on your location, proximity to an event or incident, and the preferences you select.
Emergency Alert System (EAS)
Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national warning system that uses radio, television, and satellite channels broadcast important public safety information during times of emergency. When an EAS is issued, you will hear a tone followed by an audio message. Participating television broadcasters will also display a visual message, which might take the form of a scrolling banner or a static slide.
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)
The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program is part of the EAS national alerting initiative, which enables cellphones to receive alerts for severe weather emergencies, imminent threats to life or property, AMBER alerts, and Presidential alerts. You do not need to subscribe to any service to receive alerts. The alerts are sent to all WEA-enabled devices in the impacted region. To find out whether you have a WEA-enabled phone, you should contact your mobile carrier.
NOAA Weather Radio
A NOAA weather radio provides alerts for weather warnings in your area. With batteries, a radio can work even when the power is out and can be programmed to provide alerts within your local area. Weather radios are a reliable source for severe weather announcements or weather-related emergency information.
Social Media & Traditional Media
MEMA uses Twitter (@MassEMA) and Facebook to provide preparedness tips as well as information about severe weather, emergency situations, and disasters. MEMA also uses social media as a secondary method of alerting.
Traditional local media outlets (such as TV and radio stations) are another source for emergency alerts and information.