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Safety

10 important tips for Sellers when showing their home.

  1. Be as flexible as possible with showing times. Evenings and weekends are the most popular times for buyers to view houses. Your home won’t sell if buyers can’t see it.
  2. Open Houses are important, especially in this current market.  An open house allows your home to be viewed by as many people s possible, with minimal disruption to you and your schedule. My suggestion is that you plan on going on a nice weekend get-a-way and let me do the work!
  3. Have plans for your pets during showings. Some people are uncomfortable around animals.  You’ll need to put dogs into crates, take them to doggie day care or ask friends or neighbors to care for them.  Cats that cannot go outdoors should be placed in carriers.  Most people are conscientious, but they cannot guarantee your pet won’t escape during a showing.  Your pets are your responsibility.
  4. Put valuable items in a secure location. Most people are trustworthy but it is best not to leave valuable items in plain view (i.e. jewelry, money, collectibles, and personal electronics).
  5. Secure all prescription drugs.  This is critically important, especially during an open house.  Although your agent will be present for the open house, it is difficult to keep track of everyone at all times.
  6. Keep your house as clean as possible. Have a closet, bin or other convenient location to hide things if you need to make a quick exit. Do your best to have your home ‘show ready’ at all times.
  7. Don’t stay in your home during showings or an open house. It is very important that buyers have the time and freedom to thoroughly view your home.  Most buyers are not comfortable if the seller is present. If you cannot leave consider going outside, go for a walk, or visit a neighbor’s house.
  8. It is okay to wait to leave for a showing until the buyers arrive. I suggest you check after about 30 minutes to see if they’ve gone and you’re free to go back inside your home. It is to your benefit not to stay in the home during showings.
  9. Be careful about talking to the buyers or the buyer’s agent. It is too easy to give away information to the buyer or their agent that could negatively affect you during negotiations. “Silence is Golden”.
  10. Call your agent immediately if you find any problems in your home after a showing or open house.

If you live in the Denver Metro area and are thinking of selling your home.  I would be honored to help you.  You can reach me through the “contact me” link on this website.

Tips for preventing a rat problem in and near your home.

Thanks to the city of Littleton, CO for providing this information.

Increase in Rat Activity

Post Date:02/10/2017 1:00 pm

Over the past several months, the City of Littleton has received calls from citizens who have noticed rats around the community.  Littleton Code Enforcement typically manages inquiries regarding rats.  If a property has a persistent rat issue, pest control companies can assist.  Rat issues are somewhat cyclical, based on the predator population.  Disease has decreased the number of coyotes in the southwest metro region in the past several years and rats have been reported on the increase in communities throughout the metro Denver area.  “Mange hit the fox and coyote populations pretty heavily and since they feed on mice, rats, and rabbits, it makes sense that their populations are on the rise,” said Littleton Humane Officer Terry Carr. 

The city’s building permitting process requires that all construction sites are kept free of trash and ensures routine scheduled pick up if there are dumpsters on-site.  Property owners and managers can also minimize rats from becoming a nuisance on their properties with a few simple tips:

  • Keep all garbage cans covered and do not accumulate trash
  • Weather-strip garage doors so they close tightly
  • Provide tight fitting covers for crawl spaces and compost bins
  • Keep garden sheds closed and check garage shelves and storage lofts regularly for evidence of rats
  • Seal all openings around pipes, cables and wires that enter walls and foundations
  • Repair damaged ventilation screens
  • Stack firewood off the ground and away from buildings and fences
  • Thin or remove dense vegetation such as ivy and harvest fruits/nuts regularly
  • Only feed birds, chickens and pets in a cleanable area and pick up pet droppings

    Tips for preventing a rat problem

Replacing doorknobs and deadbolts

When I have a client who is buying a home.  I strongly recommend that they replace the entry door knobs and deadbolts on their home as soon as reasonably possible.  There is no way to know who the previous owners have given a key to.  For personal safety alone, this is a task that should not be delayed.

Types of Cylindrical Door Knobs
Privacy lock (aka bedroom) – has a button or thumb turn on the inside knob, which locks the door so it cannot be opened from the outside.
Passage (aka closet and hall) – cannot be locked and is typically used on closets and hallway doors.
Keyed P1000295Lockset (aka entry) – can be locked or unlocked from both sides of the door by usin g a key, a button or a throw latch depending on the type.
Dead bolt – This is an auxiliary lock that is used to improve security. A double cylinder dead bolt requires a key on both sides of the door to lock or unlock the door.

P1000365
Keyed Alike – this is when all locksets and deadbolts use the same key to lock/unlock.  When replacing locksets/deadbolts on more than one exterior door you can purchase multiple sets that are keyed alike. Look for matching numbers on the back of the packaging.

Steps to Changing a Doorknob

P1000317P1000349

Remove Screws

Remove Screws

1. Detach the trim or rose (the ring of metal between both doorknobs and the door) by removing the two screws that hold it on. In newer doorknobs, this does not exist.

2. Remove two more screws under the trim. These are long screws that attach the two doorknobs on either side of the door.

3. Pull the doorknobs apart and remove them from the door.

 

Remove Screws

Remove Screws

 

4. Remove the two screws that hold the bolt (the locking mechanism), which remains attached to the door, and extract the bolt or throw.

Note: If you are replacing your doorknob with the same brand, you may not need to change this portion out.

 

P1000297

 

 

5. Look at the metal strike plate attached to the frame around the door (this is what catches the bolt). If the strike plate is not loose and is the right color, leave it there. Otherwise, detach it by removing its screws.

6. Insert the new bolt into the door and screw it into place. Remember to face the slanted side toward the direction the door closes.
7. Insert the doorknob on both sides of the door, making sure the two are aligned so that P1000328the long screws can hold them together.
8. Tighten the screws gradually, alternating each one so that the doorknobs come together evenly.

3 Items EVERY home should have!

Moisture Detector/Alarm

     I have a friend who is a general contractor, remodeler and who also owns investment properties.  I sold her a home this summer that she remodeled and is now renting out.  Just last week the renters called and said the basement was flooded. The pressure relief valve (TPR valve) on the water heater failed and water poured out of the heater for quit a while before the renters discovered the problem.  What a mess. She had just installed all new carpeting and pad in the basement and now has to replace the pad at a significant expense.    

     We had lunch yesterday and were talking about water alarms and wondering why she didn’t have one in place at her rental and also why neither of us have one in our home.  It just goes to show you that even people with years of experience don’t always do the obvious thing.    
     Now we both have it on our immediate ‘to do’ list to stop by a hardware store and for as little as $12 pick up a water detector to put near our water heaters.  I suggest each of you do the same!       
     Here’s a link to one you should be able to pick up at your local Ace Hardware Leak Alert Electronic Water Detector. ($12.99)
  
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
     I don’t think I can stress enough how important it is for you to have carbon monoxide detectors in your home. If you have any gas or wood fired appliances in your home, and you don’t currently have carbon monoxide detectors, I suggest you get into your car, right now, and go buy them.   In Colorado it’s the LAW.  Colorado Carbon Monoxide Law

First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector – Battery Operated ($19.99) 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says:
“Unintentional CO exposure accounts for an estimated 15,000 emergency department visits and 500 unintentional deaths in the United States each year”
  
     Please don’t let you or someone in your family be one of these statistics. I’ve talked about this many times before and have even written several blog posts related to this issue which are linked below:

 

  
Kitchen Fire Extinguisher

     According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2010, cooking was involved in an estimated 156,400 home structure fires that were reported to U.S. fire departments. These fires caused 420 deaths, 5,310 injuries and $993 million in direct property damage. Cooking caused 44% of reported home fires, 16% of home fire deaths, 40% of home fire injuries, and 15% of the direct property damage in 2010.  

Kidde Kitchen 711A Fire Extinguisher  ($19.97)

For just over $50 you can protect your family and your home from potential disasters.  Please consider purchasing these items if you currently do not have them in your home.

3 Unusual DIY Safety Tips

I talk a lot about safety in my home improvement classes and most of us are familiar with the most common safety tips such as wearing safety glasses, hearing protection or dust masks. Several times in the past I’ve talked about ladder safety and personally I consider the ladder one of the most dangerous tools we own.  But there are a few safety tips that are rarely talked about that I believe every homeowner should know.

Here are my 3 unusual safety tips:Safety with a Cell Phone

  1. Carry a cell phone with you. When working alone whether cleaning gutters on the roof, working in a crawlspace or doing your yearly attic inspection (if you haven’t done it this year, now is the time!) There are many stories of homeowners getting trapped or stuck in dangerous situations without a cell phone on hand to call someone to come to the rescue. Here’s a link to a story if you don’t believe me. http://www.aolnews.com/2010/06/10/conn-man-stuck-for-days-in-furnace-loses-arm/ 
  2. Stop if you are tired, uncomfortable or you feel awkward when performing a task.  I often say, especially in my power tool class, “If it feels awkward it is unsafe”, be sure to set up your work area so that you are comfortable performing all the tasks required for the project from reaching across a piece of material to saw, to lifting heavy objects or reaching to install a light fixture.  Here’s a link to a story of a man killed because he was sitting down while using a circular saw. http://parker.kdvr.com/news/news/109534-man-cut-killed-circular-saw-breckenridge 
  3. Turn off the electricity FIRST! If your basement or crawlspace floods from damaged to water pipes our first reaction may be to race to shut off the water. NEVER enter a basement, crawlspace or any other room that is flooded until you have shut off the electrical power at your main electrical service panel.  Risk of electrocution is real if you enter a flooded area where the water may be in contact with a live electrical source.  Here’s a lint to a story of a man who thankfully was saved from serious injury or possibly death.  http://www.whec.com/news/stories/s2242043.shtml 
I hope that you use this information, not to stop working on your home, but to take the time to consider what you are doing before you start.  Here’s to a summer filled with fun, successful and SAFE home improvement projects. 
If you live in the Denver Metro area and are interested in learning to do your own home improvement projects or have a home you are interested in buying or selling, please visit my website at www.judybrowneonline.com for information on what I do and how I can help.

Working safely with electricity outdoors

4 Important things to consider before working with electrical devices outdoors.
UL (Underwriters Laboratory) label
Check your electrical devices and any extension cords for a UL label.  The UL Mark means that representative samples of the cord have been tested for foreseeable safety hazards.
Choose the right size extension cord 
Extension cords are labeled with valuable information as to the use, size and wattage rating of the cord.
Is the extension cord designated for outdoor use? –  Be sure to check the label on the cord.  It should clearly state if it is suitable for outdoor use.
Is the extension cord the right size for the tool you will be using? – Just because the extension cord is long enough to reach your work does not mean it’s the right size for the job.  Using an undersized extension cord could cause the cord to overheat and start a fire.  Look closely at the labeling on your extension cord and compare it to the requirements for the tool you will be using.   Here is a handy file with more information on sizing your extension cord.
Protect yourself from shock hazards
Are you plugging the extension cord or tool into a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protected circuit?  Newer homes were built to electrical codes which require that any receptacle that is located outdoors must be on a GFCI protected circuit.  Older homes did not have this requirement.  If you’re not sure, you can either test the receptacle with a tester or purchase a GFCI protected power cord.  They can be a little pricey but you’re safety is worth the cost.
Inspect your electrical cords and plugs
Check your extension cords and power cords and plugs prior to use.  Be sure there are no cuts or damage to the insulating cover on the cords.  Check plugs to be sure they are not damaged.  Never use a cord with a 3 prong plug that has the round ground pin removed.  This is a safety hazard!
For more information and a list of home improvement classes available to learn more about doing things yourself visit www.workshopforwomen.com

January is National Radon Month – Radon Myth vs Facts

SPECIAL OFFER
Professional Radon Test
ONLY $99 Jan & Feb 2011
(regularly $135)
 Call 303-284-6354 or email judy.browne@pillartopost.com to schedule your radon test today!
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency January is National Radon Month, at least .  The EPA and 8 other federal agencies have joined together to educate the public about the negative health effects to individuals caused by long term exposure to Radon.
What is Radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that is released from the normal decay of uranium in rocks and soils and is found in nearly all soils in the United States.  Radon is invisible, colorless, odorless and tasteless and seeps up through the ground and diffuses into the air. We all breathe radon every day, usually at very low levels without serious negative effects.  However, it has been estimated that 1 in 15 American homes have high levels (above 4.0 pCi/L) of Radon.
Myth vs Fact
Is radon a health hazard?
Many people have dis-regarded the warnings about radon because most early testing was done on hard rock miners who were exposed to extremely high levels for long periods of time.
New studies performed on homeowners have confirmed Radon’s negative health affects. The most recent  residential case-controlled study’s results were published in 2000.   Radon is considered a Group A carcinogen which means it is known to cause cancer in humans with prolonged exposure.
Is radon a problem in Colorado?
It is estimated that nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the US have elevated radon levels. The concentration of radon does vary by geographical area. 
The map to the right is the EPA Radon map of Colorado. As you can see the majority of Colorado is in Zone 1 which has the highest potential for predicted indoor averages over the EPA limit of 4.0 pCi/L. 
Should Homeowners Test for Radon?
In 2005 the Surgeon General released a National Health Advisory on Radon recommending testing of all homes. You can read that press release here: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/pressreleases/sg01132005.html
What are dangerous levels of radon?
I have often heard that the levels considered dangerous are different in Canada and the US giving rise to questions about the validity of the problem.  The fact is that levels, at which mitigation is recommend, are very close and the recommendations are similar.  Until recently testing in the US usually occurs during real estate transactions while in Canada they tend to be done by homeowners.
The US Environmental Protection Agency and Surgeon General recommends that people not have long term exposure in excess of 4.0 Pico Curies per liter (4.0 pCi/L).  In Canada the number is 5.4 pCi/L.
The following are the general recommendations of the EPA based on the results of short term radon testing. The amount of radon in the air is measure in “picocuries of radon per liter of air” or “pCi/L”.
  •  Short term testing with levels less than 4.0 pCi/L – The EPA does not recommend any follow up action or mitigation.
  • Short-term testing with levels near but not more than 4.0 pCi/L – A second short term test may be in order.  If you do a 2nd short-term test the 2 values should be averaged and if the average is LESS THAN 4 pCi/L no follow up action or mitigation is recommended.
  •  Short term testing with levels equal to or greater than 4.0 pCi/L- The EPA recommends mitigation to reduce radon levels.
In Canada the recommendations are slightly different.  Remedial measures are recommended in a dwelling whenever the average annual radon concentration exceeds 200 Bq/m3 (5.4 pCi/L).
  • Short term testing with levels less than 5.4 pCi/L – no mitigation necessary
  • Short term testing with levels between 5.4 pCi/L and 16 pCi/L – mitigate within 2 years
  • Short term testing with levels over 16 pCi/L – mitigate within 1 year.
What to do with the results.
If testing shows levels well above those listed above mitigation within the next year is strongly advised.  If your results fall below the levels listed above than not action is required.  If testing shows levels very near the 4.0 pCi/L level you may want to consider a few things before deciding when or if to mitigate.
  • Is anyone who will be living in the home a smoker?  The risk of contracting lung cancer rises significantly for smokers.
  •  How much time will family members spend at home? 16 or more hours in the home (including sleep) would be considered long term exposure.  Stay at home moms with young children will easily meet these times.
  • Do you have bedrooms or a home office in your basement? Radon concentrations tend to be greater on the lower levels of a home and testing should be performed in these areas. A person who sleeps or spends much of his/her waking hours in the basement is exposed to more risk than others who occupy higher levels in the same house.
  • How long will you live in your home? Consider the amount of time you expect to live in your home. Most of the studies and guidelines are based on a “lifetime” of exposure. Be aware that radon testing results may be an issue when trying to sell your home.

How radon is mitigated or reduced?
There are several methods that a contractor can use to lower the radon levels in your home.  Some techniques prevent radon from entering your home with others reduce the level after it has entered.  They type of radon reduction system that will work best for your home will depend on the foundation design of your home. (i.e. basement, slab-on-grade, crawlspace).
In houses with basement or slab-on-grade foundations, radon is usually reduced by one of four types of soil suction: subslab suction, drain tile suction, sump hole suction, or block wall suction.
The most common and usually the most reliable is the subslab suction technique.  Basically suction pipes are inserted through the floor slab into the soil underneath.  A radon vent fan connected to the suction pipe draws the radon gas from below the house and releases it into the outdoor air while creating a vacuum beneath the slab.  For a more detailed description of this an the other types of radon reduction techniques I recommend you download the EPA’s “Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction” www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/consguid.html
All radon reduction techniques typically include sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation.  Sealing cracks helps limit the flow of radon into the home thereby improving the effectiveness of the other systems in place.  Please note that the EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to reduce radon. Tests have shown this is not an effective way to reduce radon levels consistently.
You can help in the reduction of radon levels in your home by opening windows, doors and vents on the lower floors in your home.  This mixes the outdoor and indoor air together effectively reducing radon levels in the home.  This should be regarded only as a temporary radon reduction technique as radon levels will return to the previous levels when the doors and windows are closed not to mention the increased cost of re-conditioning the air.
SPECIAL OFFER
Professional Radon Test
ONLY $99 Jan & Feb 2011
(regularly $135)
 Call 303-284-6354 or email judy.browne@pillartopost.com to schedule your radon test today!
 Links
Radon Study (American Journal of Epidemiology  ) http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/151/11/1091.pdf 
EPA’s “Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction” www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/consguid.html 

Clothes Dryer Fire Safety & Maintenance

A posting on Facebook prompted me to do some research about house fires that have been caused by problems with a clothes dryer. A young woman was concerned when she awoke to find her dryer hot to the touch although she had not done any laundry since the day before.  
 We often hear stories about clothes dryers’ catching on fire and it is a legitimate concern for home owners.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration:
  • Annually, 12,700 clothes dryer fires occur in residential buildings resulting in 15 deaths and 300 injuries.
  • Eighty percent of clothes dryer fires in structures occur in residential buildings.
  • “Failure to clean” is the leading factor contributing to clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
  • The 2 leading items that are ‘first ignited’ in a dryer fire are clothes in the dryer and lint and dust.  These 2 items account for 56% of fires.
  • New home construction trends place clothes dryers and washing machines in more hazardous locations away from outside walls such as bedrooms, second-floor hallways, bathrooms, and kitchens.
Things homeowners should be doing to reduce the potential for fire:
  • Clean your lint filter after EVERY load of laundry.
  • Inspect your lint filter for rips each time you use it. If you see any rips, replace immediately.
  • Never put synthetic materials such as rubber, plastic, foam, or pieces of cloth that have been used to sponge up flammable liquids in the dryer, even if previously washed.
  • Clean the lint out of the exhaust pipe and the rear of the dryer regularly.
  • The exhaust pipe should be as short as possible and have limited bends to allow for adequate airflow.
  • Disconnect, clean, and inspect the dryer duct and venting every couple of years
  • Never let your clothes dryer run while you are out of the house or asleep.
  • Have gas-powered dryers inspected by a professional annually to ensure that the gas line and connection are intact.
  • Outside wall dampers should have a covering that will keep out rain, snow, and dirt. However, do not use wire screen or cloth of any kind to protect the exhaust opening.

For the complete report issued by the US Fire Administration go to this link:
http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v7i1.pdf 

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