-- November 22 - December 5, 2017
Winterize to safeguard
your home from harsh weather
utumn is a beautiful time of year marked by wel-
coming cooler temperatures and the natural beauty
of leaves changing colors. Autumn also has a tendency
to fly by, as if the powerful weather of winter simply
cannot wait to make its presence felt.
With such a seemingly short time between the end of
summer and the dawn of winter, homeowners know they
don’t have too many weekends in between to prepare
their homes for the potentially harsh months ahead. But
such preparation, often referred to as “winterizing,” can
make a home more comfortable when the mercury dips
below freezing, while saving homeowners substantial
amounts of money along the way.
* Clean the gutters. Leaves falling in fall can be a
beautiful sight to behold, but many of those leaves are
likely finding their way into your gutters, where they
can lodge and cause a host of problems down the road.
If the leaves and additional debris, such as twigs and
dirt, that pile up in your gutters are not cleared out be-
fore the first winter storm, the results can be costly and
Winter rain and snowfall needs a place to go upon
hitting your roof, and gutters facilitate the travel of such
precipitation from your roof into street-level drainage
systems. If gutters are backed up with leaves and other
debris, then ice dams may form, forcing water to seep
in through the roof. That damage can be costly and can
even cause the roof to collapse inward in areas with
heavy snowfall. Clean gutters throughout the fall, espe-
cially if your property has many trees, and be sure to
check gutters one last time before the arrival of winter.
* Tend to your attic. Homeowners who have attics
in their homes might want to add some extra insulation
up there, especially those who recall feeling cold inside
their homes last winter, which is often a telltale sign of
improper insulation in a home. A good rule of thumb
when determining if your attic needs more insulation
is to look for the ceiling joists. If you can see the joists,
then you need more insulation.
* Address leaky windows and doors. Sometimes at-
tic insulation is not the culprit when it comes to a cold
home. Oftentimes, leaky windows and doors are the
real bad guys in a drafty home. Fall is a great time to
inspect for leaky windows and doors, as the wind out-
side can serve as your partner. When the wind outside
is blowing, take a tour of your home’s windows and
doorways, standing next to them to determine if there
any holes or leaks that are letting outdoor air inside.
If you notice any leaks beneath exterior doors, install
some door sweeps to keep outdoor air where it belongs.
Leaks around windows can be snuffed out with caulk or
* Test the furnace. Homeowners typically do not
devote much thought to their furnaces in spring, sum-
mer and fall. But with winter on the horizon, fall is the
time to test the furnace to make sure it’s ready for the
months ahead. Expect a somewhat foul yet brief odor
to appear when starting the furnace. That odor should
dissipate shortly, but if it does not go away, then your
furnace is likely in need of repair. But even if the smell
does not stick around, you might want to have the fur-
nace cleaned by a professional anyway. Such cleanings
ensure the furnace works efficiently throughout the
* Clean the garage. You might not mind parking in
the driveway during the warmer months of the year, but
why subject your vehicles to harsh winter weather if you
don’t have to? Clean the garage in the fall so you have
an indoor parking spot throughout the winter season.
Protecting your car from the elements can add years to
its life and also saves you the trouble of digging your car
out of the snow.
Fall is a time of year for homeowners to spend a
weekend or two preparing their homes for the often
harsh weather that awaits when winter arrives.
any things in a kitchen contribute to
giving this popular room its person-
ality. Appliances and choice of cabinets go
a long way toward crafting that look, but
perhaps nothing denes a kitchen more
than a homeowner's choice of countertops.
Countertops are where the action takes
place in a kitchen. It's where meals are
prepared and where hungry houseguests
or curious kids watch the family chef whip
up the night's meal. The options with re-
gard to countertop surfaces are numerous,
and the following are just a few of the more
popular options homeowners planning to
replace their existing surfaces might want
Laminate countertops are popular and
affordable. Made of sheeting glued to ply-
wood or particleboard substrate, laminate
countertops are water-resistant but not
very heat-resistant, so homeowners will
want to place any hots pans, pots or bak-
ing sheets on trivets to maintain the lami-
nate. Many homeowners prefer laminate
countertops because they are available in
so many colors, meaning they can match
any homeowner's preferences, no matter
how colorful those preferences are. Cut-
ting on laminate countertops is not rec-
ommended, but such surfaces are easy to
clean and maintain.
Quartz is among the most durable
countertop surfaces available, as it is re-
sistant to bacteria, heat, stains, and water.
Though quartz is not available in as many
shades as laminate, it is similarly easy
to clean. Also like laminate countertops,
quartz surfaces tend to have easily visible
seams, which may irk homeowners who
nd such minor imperfections an eyesore.
Quartz countertops can be expensive de-
pending on the amount of surface area a
kitchen has, so budget-conscious home-
owners with especially large kitchens may
nd quartz countertops bust their budgets.
The natural beauty of granite is what
draws many homeowners to install this
popular surface material in their kitch-
ens. Thanks to their unique shading and
tone, granite countertops are never the
same from one home to the next, and
granite complements many different
cabinet colors. Granite also is resistant to
heat, scarring and, when sealed properly,
stains. Granite is naturally porous, so if it
is not sealed properly, it can harbor bac-
teria. Some granite countertops must be
sealed annually, while some pretreated
countertops can go as long as 15 years
without a need for resealing. Unlike oth-
er countertop surface materials, granite,
which is among the most expensive coun-
tertop materials, does not come in a vast
array of colors, so homeowners should
expect to choose from just 20 or so color
Homeowners who want to give their
kitchens a modern and eco-friendly feel
may want to consider recycled glass coun-
tertops. Recycled glass countertops, the
majority of which are now produced with
80 to 90 percent post-consumer glass, are
made of pieces of glass that are held to-
gether with cement binders. Some might
be concerned that countertops made of
recycled glass are not very strong, but the
cement binders are very hard, making the
countertops durable, strong and unlikely
to chip or crack. Recycled glass counter-
tops come in various colors and are resis-
tant to both heat and stains. Installation
of recycled glass countertops can be tricky,
as improper installation can lead to stress
points that make the glass susceptible to
cracking. As a result, the installation of
recycled glass countertops is best left to
professionals with experience on such
projects. Recycled glass countertops can
be quite expensive as well.
A homeowner's choice of countertop
surface material can go a long way toward
dening the personality of his or her kitch-
en, so homeowners should consider their
options before making a nal decision.
Countertop options abound
Stay safe with supplemental heating
hen the weather begins
to grow cold, individuals
turn to supplemental forms of
heat for a variety of reasons.
The rising cost of home owner-
ship as well as escalating fuel
prices often set people on a
search for the least expensive
and most efficient ways to keep
comfortable during the cold
weather season. Space heat-
ers, wood-burning stoves and
fireplaces are among the more
common and popular supple-
mental heating sources.
The same heating sources
that can be cost-effective and
safe when used correctly can
become hazardous when safety
guidelines are not followed.
The National Fire Prevention
Association states that in 2010
heating equipment was in-
volved in an estimated 57,100
reported home structure fires
in the United States alone, re-
sulting in 490 deaths, 1,540 in-
juries and $1.1 billion in direct
property damage. These fires
accounted for 16 percent of all
reported home fires.
In an effort to prevent prop-
erty damage or loss of life,
homeowners should follow the
safety guidelines that come with
a supplemental heating device.
Also, simple steps can prevent
fire and injury.
* Test smoke alarms month-
ly to ensure they are in proper
working order. Should a mal-
function of a heating appliance
occur or a fire start, a smoke
alarm could be your first indi-
cator of a problem.
* Keep anything that can
burn at least 3 feet away from
any heating equipment, includ-
ing a furnace, a wood stove,
portable space heaters, or a
* Consider the use of a gate
or another obstruction to keep
children and pets several feet
away from a space heater or an-
other appliance that can easily
be knocked over.
* Never use fuel-burning ap-
pliances without proper room
venting to the outdoors to pre-
vent carbon monoxide poison-
ing. Fuel includes everything
from wood to gas to oil.
* Only use the fuel recom-
mended by the product manu-
* When making a fire in a
stove or fireplace, never use
flammable liquids to start or
accelerate the fire.
* A wood-, pellet- or coal-
burning stove should be burned
very hot at least twice a day for
about 30 minutes to reduce the
creosote buildup in the chimney
* Chimneys should be pro-
fessionally cleaned at the be-
ginning of each use season to
ensure there is nothing lodged
within that can catch fire.
* Do not use an oven to
heat the home while it is in the
“on”position. You can leave the
oven door open after cooking is
finished so that residual heat
can enter the kitchen, provided
pets and children are kept away.
* Electric space heaters
should be kept away from walls,
curtains and furniture. Many
now feature tip-over safety fea-
tures that will turn the unit off
should it be tipped over. How-
ever, it is always adviseable to
use a space heater on a level,
sturdy surface that is away from
foot traffic in the room.
* All supplemental heating
sources should be turned off or
extinguished before leaving the
house or going to bed.
* Carbon monoxide detec-
tors should be installed in every
level of the home. Install the
detectors close to all bedrooms.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless,
odorless gas that cannot be de-
tected easily. It quickly robs the
body of oxygen and can be fatal
when present in high amounts.
* Any stationery space heat-
ing equipment or HVAC system
should be installed by profes-
sionals and inspected so that
it adheres with local building
codes. This is to ensure your
safety as a homeowner.
* Use safety screens in front
of fireplaces to prevent sparks
* Make sure the damper is
open every time you light a fire.
* Do not move a heater while
it is hot or fill it with fuel at this
time, except when adding wood
to a stove.
* Cinders and ashes should
be cleaned routinely from
stoves and fireplaces and stored
away from the home in a heat-
safe container until cool.
* Never position an electric
heater next to a water source.
* Extension cords should
not be used unless absolutely
necessary. The cords should be
heavy duty and meet the draw
of the heating unit. Also, they
should be run so they don’t
present a tripping hazard, but
also so the cords themselves do
not create a combustion hazard.
* Children should not be
allowed to touch or play near
any heating appliances. Do not
leave children or pets unattend-
ed in a room with a fire or space
Before investing in a heating
unit, homeowners should con-
sider adding more insulation to
homes or caulking drafty win-
dows and doors as a method to
warming a home.
Whether out of necessity
or just to provide an added
measure of warmth to a home,
many people use supplemental
heating appliances frequently
during the winter. Emphasizing
safety when using such devices
can prevent many of the fire
hazards associated with these