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Is Your Home Safe? Milwaukee/NARI Suggests a Few Things to Consider

June 10, 2014

Each June, the National Safety Council celebrates National Safety Month as a time to bring attention to key safety issues. Members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc. offer tips for homeowners on some things to watch out for that could put their safety at risk.

Jack Loppnow, of insurance provider Robertson Ryan & Associates, Milwaukee, notes that with the summer vacation time upon us, homeowners should take a few precautions before heading out. While they may have already put timers on light switches and asked a neighbor to pick up the mail, here are a few other things to consider:

• Calling your voice mail to make sure it doesn’t get full. Full systems tell callers no one is home to check their messages;
• Unclogging any gutters or downspouts to prevent a possible overflow from dumping water at your home’s foundation;
• Checking your stove to make sure all the elements are turned off;
• Checking all your outside faucets to make sure they are securely turned off to avoid hoses from bursting.

Making Sure Your Drinking Water Stays Safe
You may think of your outside faucet as nothing more than a serviceable tool for exterior water needs, but those faucets, if not equipped with a backflow preventer, can contaminate your drinking water, according to Darryl Michlig of Best Price Plumbing, Waukesha.

He explains that, for example, if you are using a weed killer or fertilizer sprayer attached to the end of the hose, and there is a sudden drop in water pressure, the chemical solution will be siphoned back into the plumbing system of the house. Check your hose bib to see if it has a vacuum breaker built into it; if not, one can easily be installed.

Another safety feature homeowners should check for is an air gap on the kitchen sink/dishwasher.

“This air gap fitting prevents contamination of the potable water supply where it joins the dishwasher in the event that waste backs up through the dishwasher drain hose,” Michlig said. “Homeowners who install their own dishwashers need to take this into consideration.”

Another DIY job commonly done by homeowners is toilet replacement. “Homeowners need to make sure they have an approved fill valve or anti-siphon devices. If you don’t use the proper fill valve, you run the risk of contaminated toilet tank water siphon back into the potable water supply,” he said.

Check the Chimney to Prevent Fire, Carbon Monoxide
Carter Manke with Royal Chimney Service, chimney cleaning specialists based in Wauwatosa, recommends a chimney inspection once a year and sweep as needed. This includes the sweeping of the cap, flue, smoke chamber, smoke shelf, damper, and firebox area. The exterior chimney also is examined.

“One of the things we look for is soot/creosote buildup,” Manke said. “It is highly flammable and if not regularly removed, can ignite and cause a chimney fire.”

Liners are another critical area. “If a liner is damaged, smoke flows into areas of the chimney where it’s not supposed to be. Smoke is flammable and, if enough is built up, it can lead to a flashover and an explosion. It can also overheat the exterior chimney where it’s touching wood. A hairline crack after years of getting charred will one day ignite,” he said.

Manke said it was important to check liners because a damaged liner that is not drafting properly can result in excess carbon monoxide. One sign of excess carbon monoxide can be found on top of your water heater. “On every water heater there are red and blue disks to let the plumber know hot and cold,” he said. “If they are melted on one side, that is an indicator of carbon monoxide.”

Having a flue protector will keep animals from nesting or climbing down straight to your living room. Manke noted that in his 27 years as a chimney specialist, he has removed all animals including a duck trapped behind a damper (the duck was OK), squirrel’s nests, possums, raccoons, birds, hornets, and wasps.

In Case Disaster Strikes ….
In the event a home is hit by theft or fire, it is beneficial to the homeowner to have a record of their valuables, advised Loppnow.

“A home inventory should include everything from the high-ticket items like TVs and electronics to the more mundane, like bedding and knickknacks. A home inventory provides detail that makes the claims process simpler and more efficient and gives you peace of mind that any items that need repair or replacement per your coverage and limits will be executed fairly,” he said.

You can inventory by taking photos or a video of every room in your house, opening drawers and closets and storage pieces to show contents. Make sure to capture manufacturers' logos where you can, as well as the all-important serial numbers or style numbers. Then itemize these all in writing. List each item, its manufacturer, serial/style number, where you purchased it and when. Keep the images and list in a fireproof safe or copy to your computer. This will help ensure that it's available if and when you need it.

“Your inventory should be updated every year, and then obviously when you have received a big-ticket item like a tablet device, a piece of furniture, or jewelry,” Loppnow said.

The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 740 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.

For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI's Remodeling Guide,” call 414- 771-4071 or visit the Council’s website at www.milwaukeenari.org.

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