The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year and with good reason: festivities, lights, decorations… not to mention all the treats that make most of us go on a diet come January.
Children, in particular, love the lights and all the indoor and outdoor decorations that give the holidays an extra sparkle. But every year we hear of terrible accidents involving such decorations. Christmas trees alone have been known to cause over 13 million dollars worth of fire and property damage every year. This damage doesn’t include accidents with menorah candles, electrical issues with string lights, or kitchen fires!
How can we ensure that our festive days are full of joy and empty of tears?
Trees and Fire Don’t Match
If you are putting up a Christmas tree, make sure it is far away from the fireplace and any candles. For good measure, have a fire extinguisher close by or mark in your mind the closest fire extinguisher to the tree.
When choosing a fake tree, confirm that its label states that it is fire-resistant. Even so, don’t put it near a fireplace or any heating device. Secure its base to make sure your tree is not unsteady and save it from crashing on children… or cats.
If you opted for a live tree, remember that they can be highly flammable due to their sap. Also, remember to water it! Most conifers require cold to thrive. Placing a few ice cubes once a day will go a long way toward making your tree happy.
Avoid Fragile And Inedible Decorations
When it comes to decorations, unbreakable ornaments are invaluable. They will not break and are safe for crawling toddlers and mischievous pets.
Speaking of decorations, remember that young children tend to put everything and anything in their mouths. If you have a toddler at home, it’s best to invest in large, unbreakable ornaments that have no detachable small parts.
If you have any decorations that look like candy but are not, remember that said toddlers like to taste things. Avoid them until your children are old enough to understand what is real food and what is not.
Also, remember that certain plants can be poisonous when ingested: poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly can be potentially poisonous. Keep them out of reach of children and pets.
Candles are synonymous with the holidays. But they can also be a fire hazard! Whether you’re using a Kwanzaa kinara, a Haunnukah menorah, or an Advent candle, be sure to keep an eye on the candle’s flame.
Place candles somewhere where children and pets have no access.
Never leave an unattended candle burning; before leaving the house or going to bed, blow them out.
When opening presents and enjoying the presence of your loved ones, make sure you don’t knock candles off the table. Make sure the table or shelf they are on is stable, sturdy, and not wobbly.
Regarding your yard, make sure that you have cleaned any ice from the paths. It’s also good to rake any fallen leaves from garden paths and patios because people may slip on them.
Double-check that tree branches are sturdy and properly trimmed; if they fall, they could drag your Christmas lights with them.
The Fire Is So Delightful
Fire is delightful as long as it stays in the fireplace. Be careful about what you burn in it. Wrapping paper can catch fire instantly and spread fire sparkles.
Don’t burn your live tree at the end of the season in your fireplace; the burnt tree sap may build up on the chimney and clog it. A house reeking of smoke is not quite so delightful anymore.
Another fire hazard comes from overloaded power outlets. If you’re lucky, overloading will only shut off your power. If there is no circuit breaker, however, overloading could cause overheating. An overheated wire tends to melt, leading to fire… and not the delightful kind.
Light, Bulbs, Action
When it comes to lights, indoor lights are different from outdoor ones. Confirm you are using the proper ones for each situation. Don’t try using interior lights in an exterior environment unless the product specifically states the lights can be used outdoors.
When buying new lights, make sure they have been tested by the professionals who made them for safety. The packaging or a quick internet search will tell you if they’ve been lab tested by the ETL/ITSNA or UL.
Because plastic deteriorates over time, take a look at your lights if you have been using the same ones for a few years. Plastic polymerizes with time, making it fragile and exposing the wires underneath. Cracked insulation can lead to sparks; not the best idea when your lights are in contact with a tree branch. Make sure there are no exposed wires and the electric cord is not twisted.
Also, check your bulbs. If any bulbs are broken, change them after taking your lights out of the power socket.
Don’t run light cords at a long distance over the floor: these are accidents waiting to happen. If you’re so committed to tripping up your family, you may as well scatter banana peels around the tree.
Lights for external use are weather- and rain-resistant. When putting them up, don’t use nails or screws. You could drill the cord or wires by accident and damage the cord insulation. Use hooks and strings instead. If you’re plugging in exterior lighting, make sure it’s plugged into a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle) outlet to protect from electrical shock.
If you are putting lights high up, make sure your ladder is safely positioned. It’s good to have another person helping you because bending and stretching on a ladder can be dangerous. It would be a pity to spend your holidays in crutches!
Also, remember to tightly fasten your lights and any outdoor decorations. Winter winds can blow them away and into Santa’s path. Wouldn’t it be a shame to get no presents because Santa was unable to reach your chimney?
Finally, don’t leave your lights on overnight. A simple timer will ensure they burn only for as long as you can enjoy them. Leaving them overnight is a fire hazzard – and pretty bad for the environment.
So, stay safe and enjoy the holiday season! And if you need any help with your holiday preparations (or any other time of the year), Valley Restoration and Construction can help! Contact us online or call us on 970-964-4437. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for fire and flood emergencies.
Winter is right around the corner, meaning any gardeners need to prep their gardens for biting cold air and snow.
For many, it’s hard to find the motivation to winterize your garden after all your hard work for the past two seasons. However, that doesn’t diminish the importance of preparing your garden for the colder months.
So, what are the things you’ll need to prepare?
Preparing the Structures and Tools
Pathways, tools, garden beds, and watering systems should all be considered when getting ready for the winter.
Pathways: If you want to minimize excessive pavement cracking or isle slipperiness, try to clear out these pathways after most of the leaves have fallen. Clear pavements with a stiff broom or brush and some water. You can simply rake dirt or gravel paths to get rid of debris.
Buildings: Autumn is a good time to repair any issues with your fencing or greenhouse since you no longer have to worry about the plants themselves. Pests and decaying wood should be treated or replaced as necessary.
Water features: From waterfalls to ponds to fountains, it’s important to unclog any filtering or drainage systems and turn off any water that may run through the system’s piping. If you have a pond, fall is a great time to clean it out. However, it’s also important to keep the pond at a temperature that will keep it from freezing if you have fish inside!
Lighting: This is purely aesthetic rather than necessary but it can make a big difference to your garden. People often find it relaxing to have decorative lights during the winter so their garden space doesn’t look so empty without all of the plants to fill it.
Watering Systems: Taking the necessary steps to prepare your garden’s drip systems, hoses, and sprinklers is more important than you think. Not doing this could cause issues with piping and even lead to your watering systems breaking.
Tools: Since you don’t have to care for your plants during winter, this is a great time to care for your tools. Sharpening and cleaning your gardening tools helps ensure a longer lifespan and more effective use in the future.
FAQ’s on Prepping the Garden Itself
“What should I add to the soil in the fall?” Preparing your soil for spring by adding various kinds of nutrients in the fall can give these components more time to break down and become part of the soil when spring rolls around. Try adding bone meal, compost or manure, rock phosphate, and other plant-worthy nutrients and minerals.
“Should I cover my garden in the winter?” Yes! There are many ways to cover your crops, though. Planting certain plants meant to last through the winter can help you avoid soil erosion as well as add nutrients to the soil. Covering a bed with compost first, then mulch can also protect the soil. Finally, you can cover your garden beds by snugly placing a simple mesh gardening cloth on the garden bed. Don’t forget to also wrap the trees!
If you experience any home disasters during the winter months (or any other time of the year), Valley Restoration and Construction can help! Contact us online or call us on 970-964-4437. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for fire and flood emergencies.
Stains can come from just about anything and, unfortunately, they can force their way into our lives with something as simple as a sauce spill. When addressed right away, many potential stains can be treated right away. However, there are some options in certain settings that allow you to treat discolorations that have been in your home for years!
Dirty pets and kids, red sauces, wine spills, and an endless list of other things could all be causes of stains on your carpet. Some stains build up as dirt over time through general use, where some appear after an event like a spill or a muddy dog running inside. How can you get your carpet looking clean again?
If a spill just happened, it’s best to address the accident right away before a stain has time to set in. To do so, treat the area with a stain remover and follow the provided instructions. If you don’t have a stain remover, these simple mixtures could help get the mess cleaned up.
Some of these solutions also work for older stains, so if you’re having a hard time getting an old discoloration out of the carpet, give one of these a try.
Salt and Vinegar: Mix 2 tablespoons of salt into 1/2 cup of white vinegar and let the salt dissolve. Apply the mixture, wait for it to dry, then vacuum it up!
Vinegar and Cornstarch: This works well for old stains and dirt that has been ground into the carpet for a long period of time. Make a paste that includes 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Let this mixture sit for 2 days on the discolored area, then remove it with a vacuum or a rag.
Vinegar, Laundry Detergent, and Water: This mixture works well for paint spills and juice stains! Use 1 1/2 teaspoons of vinegar, two cups of water, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of laundry detergent. Let it sit for a couple of hours, then clean it up!
Popcorn ceiling is known to catch all kinds of dirt and can easily turn yellow from smoke or water damage. It’s best not to paint over popcorn ceiling because this makes it incredibly challenging and expensive to remove if you or a future resident ever decides to take it off. However, painting is also the easiest solution to cover up stains if you don’t mind the popcorn texture.
If you do decide to clean the stains, however, here’s how!
Use some bleach. Mixing 5 parts water with one part bleach to help any yellowed colors return to their original white. Just make sure the ceiling is not too wet! This could cause the texture to dissolve.
Rid of the grease. If you have any popcorn textures in your kitchen, there’s a high chance it has gathered a lot of grease and may be discoloring your white ceiling. Use a damp rag (again, be sure it isn’t too wet) to collect any grease then if there is still a stain, use the method above after the ceiling has completely dried. A dryer sheet that is warm and slightly damp can also pick up grease quickly.
Other than visible stains, there are also stains that could leave a smell like pets or smoke from fire damage or past and current smokers. Luckily, while it may take some time, smells can be gotten rid of!
Wipe down walls, floors, furniture, and the ceiling with rag that has been dampened with vinegar. You could also try and let everything happen passively. Simply open a window (to get rid of the smell temporarily) or set out a few bowls that are filled with charcoal or baking soda to absorb the smells on a more permanent level. You could even sprinkle some baking soda throughout your carpet to absorb the smell. Afterwards, just vacuum it up!
Another great way to clean up your home is with a professional carpet cleaning! Learn more on the Valley Restoration website.
Popcorn ceilings are an out of date trend not only because of their appearance, but also because of the level of maintenance they require. People usually remove this texture not only because it is out of date, but also because of how dirty it can become. However, they can be a pain to remove from older homes.
How can I clean my popcorn ceiling?
The rough textures catches grease, cobwebs, cigarette smoke, and other grime which will cause the once white paint to turn slightly yellow. Here are some methods of cleaning:
Remove stains with a bit of bleach. Mixing a lot of water with a little bleach (a bleach to water ratio of 1 to 5) can help slightly yellowed paint to be restored back to white. Make sure it doesn’t get too wet, though, because the popcorn texture will dissolve. If the stain doesn’t come out, another option is to simply repaint.
Clean up loose particles. Cobwebs, dust, and small particles can get lodged throughout the popcorn texture. One of the best ways to remove them is to vacuum them up with a wet/dry vac or other vacuum hose.
Get rid of grease! Popcorn textures in the kitchen gather a lot of grease. Use a damp cloth (again, not too wet if you don’t want the texture to dissolve) to wipe up any grease. A warm, damp dryer sheet also gets kitchen grease up quickly!
Before you start cleaning with any liquids, test the mixture on a portion of the ceiling before moving on to the rest of the house.
How can I remove the popcorn texture entirely?
If you don’t want to deal with constant cleaning and repainting, it’s best to get rid of it. Here are the steps to take:
Prep the room you’ll be working in. When you start to scrape, debris from the ceiling will get everywhere. To avoid a massive mess, set down trash bags or tarps to cover all floors and furniture.
Work in sections. This will keep you more organized as you work and the process will go by a lot quicker.
Use water then scrape. The popcorn texture will dissolve best if is is wet. After the section is thoroughly soaked, you can scrape it off.
Retexture and paint. Get a newer, more modern texture stamped on and then paint.
Before you start working with any drywall or texturing, make sure to get your home checked for asbestos! It’s an incredibly dangerous mineral used in homes that were built any time before the 1980’s. If you disturb any materials that contain asbestos, the fibres of the mineral could lodge in your lungs and cause a lot of issues. Call Valley Restoration and Construction to get your home checked today!