Decorating your home is one of the most enjoyable parts of the holiday season. Because electricity is involved with so many holiday decorations, it’s important you follow a few simple tips to keep your home and family safe.
Checking your decorations and electrical equipment for damage is one of the most important things you can do to stay safe this holiday season. Before plugging anything in, inspect electrical outlets to ensure they aren’t loose, damaged, or cracked. You should also look for damage to your decorations themselves, like cracked bulbs and frayed electrical cords, and refrain from using decorations with these problems.
Avoid overloading your electrical outlets. If you’re using incandescent light strings to decorate your home or your tree, never plug more than one of these strings into a single outlet. Also, don’t plug multiple high-wattage decorations into one outlet. Either of these decorating missteps can easily overload the outlet and increase your risk for a house fire.
Buy the right decorations. When you’re shopping for your indoor and outdoor decorations, look for items that have been certified by an independent testing laboratory. This means a decoration has been successfully safety-tested.
Lastly, make sure you unplug your electrical decorations whenever you leave your house and when you go to sleep at night. Many electrical fires occur when homeowners are asleep or out of the home, so taking this extra precaution is an important safety tip.
If you want to enjoy a safe holiday season, follow each of these electrical safety tips. Using electrical decorations responsibly can help protect your family from harm while you also transform your home for the holidays.
What questions to ask your contractor in advance of hiring them. Most homeowners have some concerns when it comes to hiring home improvement professionals. Some are afraid of overpaying, some worry that they’re hiring an unqualified professional, and others wonder about the character of the individuals they’re inviting into their homes. Asking these ten questions can help alleviate all of these concerns.
1. How long have you been in the business or working in the industry?
Look for a credible track record and successful work experience.
2. Are you licensed, insured and bonded?
At the very least, make sure your pro is licensed and carries worker’s comp and liability insurance. Bonding is not a universal requirement. Think of bonding as homeowner insurance that protects you in case of an incomplete job.
3. Do you guarantee your work in writing?
While a verbal guarantee is nice, it offers no guarantees that the contractor will actually stand behind his work. Draft a written guarantee that states exactly what is and isn’t covered.
4. Can you provide references?
Ratings and reviews are a great resource, especially when coupled with references from previous customers. Ask your contractor to provide a list of references. Don’t hire pros who can’t offer references. I would also advise researching the Better Business Bureau to see any complaints that may have been filed against the company.
5. Do you pull all the required permits?
Failing to pull the requited permits can cost you in the long run. Have your contractor pull the necessary paperwork and permits to get your job started. Also require that they deliver copies of all closed permits once the job is completed. If your contractor is hesitant, find a new pro.
6. Who will be managing the project?
If your contractor isn’t in charge of your job, insist on meeting the project manager to ensure he measures up to your standards.
7. What is the project timeline and daily work schedule?
Construction scheduling is never perfect. Workers get sick, orders get delayed and weather causes interruptions. But an organized contractor will provide you with a work schedule that clearly outlines a start and end date.
8. Will you need water or bathroom facilities?
Most contractors are self-sufficient enough to bring their own water. But, unless your job is a major remodel that necessitates bringing in a port-a-john, there’s a good chance your workers will need to use your facilities. Dedicate a bathroom (or bathrooms) to your workers before you start your project.
9. Will you need my garage code or keys to my house? Who will have access?
Many homeowners feel uncomfortable handing over the keys to their home. Unless you plan on staying home during the construction, you’re going to need to give your contractor access to your house. Knowing who has the keys to your home will give you peace of mind. You may feel confident with your ongoing security if you plan on having your locks rekeyed after the project is completed.
10. Will you sign a contract?
All worthwhile contractors will write out a clear contract that defines the work to be performed, as well as the material, costs and completion timeframes associated with the project. Thorough contracts also cover what happens if the project becomes problematic. This is known as a time and materials contract. The contract should also include a termination clause that spells out the circumstances in which both parties are allowed to terminate the contract.
DO NOT PAY IN FULL UNTIL THE ENTIRE PROJECT IS COMPLETED AND YOU ARE SATISFIED WITH THE WORK.
After Hurricane Irma, much of Florida lost power. And during Hurricane Maria, all of Puerto Rico is in the dark.
The one-two punch of storms reminded Floridians of the importance of owning a generator. If you’re shopping for a power source, here are factors to consider:
How much do you want to spend?
Stand-by generators can power your whole house and usually run on natural gas or propane. They typically cost $5,000 to $10,000, according to Consumer Reports. And you’ll need to start planning the installation months in advance. Most homeowners opt for portable generators, which usually won’t run central AC and cost $400 to $1,000. (However, Consumer Reports’ top-rated portable generator is a Honda that goes for $3,999.)
What do you want to power?
If you want to run a fridge, a fan and a few lights, a small portable generator will do the job. If you hope to keep living as if the hurricane never hit, you’ll need a stationary generator. And if you’re willing to rough it but would like to run a window AC unit, you’ll want to make sure before the storm that your generator has enough juice to run your AC. Another caveat: Cheap generators can produce power surges that will fry expensive electronics.
How much noise can you stand?
Or, put another way, how many decibels do you want to bombard your neighbors with? In general, the more expensive the generator, the quieter it is.
Technology is getting better.
For decades, Floridians have been buying portable generators that were the mechanical equivalent of muscle cars, says Paul Hope of Consumer Reports. Now, though, manufacturers are designing fuel-injected engines for generators. These models are quieter, more fuel-efficient and emit less carbon monoxide. They’re also more expensive.
The smart move, says Hope, is to shop for a generator between storms or after hurricane season. That gives you time to research what you need — and to hire an electrician to install a transfer switch or interlock device that lets the generator power your house.
Do not read this list and become overwhelmed, it is an extensive list meant to cover basic home maintenance. Not all of these maintenance items will apply to all homes. This is a comprehensive guideline designed for homes in the South as well as Northern climates.
Spring cleaning is a way to demonstrate pride in ownership (or rentership). A home and its contents are investments; money spent on something you really love or really need (ideally both). When you take the time to clean thoroughly and properly, you can maintain and prolong the life of the item or finish for years. Further, it means you live in a cleaner and healthier home; less dust, dust mites, allergens, odors, and dirt.
Always start from the top and work your way down. Think about it like this: dust falls down (like rain or snow) so if you start at the top, you’ll never have to re-clean a surface (which is a time waster). It doesn’t make sense to clean the floors first and then dust the tabletops; you’ll just have to clean the floors again. Use gravity to your benefit and always work from top to bottom. It also helps you not miss anything!
General Spring Cleaning Tasks:
These are a list of some of the things that need to be done around the house, and spring is a great time to do them. So often we don’t remember to do them, so let this be your wake-up call!
Tests and replacements:
Test smoke alarm
Test carbon monoxide alarm
Check flashlight batteries
Check fire extinguishers
Change air filters
Check all window screens for tears and repair or replace as required
Overall Spring Cleaning Chores:
Remove fingerprints and dirt from light switches and door handles
Spring Clean Outside:
Florida, Georgia and North Carolina residents affected by Hurricane Matthew will begin surveying damages to their property and belongings.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier put together the following tips to help Floridians begin the process of filing insurance claims for damaged property and belongings and this may prove useful to residents in other states as well:
Tip 1: Locate all applicable insurance policies. This may include a homeowners’ policy, flood policy (flood coverage is not covered under a typical homeowners’ policy and is separate coverage), and an automobile policy (may cover damage to your car from flooding).
Tip 2: Document all damaged property and belongings. Take photos or shoot video footage before attempting any temporary repairs. When you file an insurance claim, you may be asked for visual documentation of damages.
A photographic home inventory is a handy resource for this situation. A free smartphone app developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners called “MyHome Scr.APP.book” can help you take and store a room-by-room log of photos.
Tip 3: Contact your insurance company or insurance agent as soon as possible to report damages.Insurance policies require prompt reporting of claims, so it is important to act as soon as possible.
Tip 4: Cover damaged areas exposed to the elements to prevent further damage. Your insurance company may reimburse the expense of these temporary repairs, so keep all receipts.
Do not dispose of any damaged personal property until your insurance company adjuster has had an opportunity to survey it.
Florida consumers who have questions about their insurance coverage are encouraged to call CFO Atwater’s Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services’ Insurance Helpline. Helpline experts can be reached by calling 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1- 877-693-5236), or online at: myfloridacfo.com/hurricanematthew.
As Hurricane Matthew churns through the Atlantic with a possible landfall in Florida, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) urged property owners to take some basic precautions to protect themselves and their belongings.
“With the potential for Hurricane Matthew to hit somewhere along the East Coast, the Governor has issued a state of emergency for all 67 counties in Florida,” says Logan McFaddin, PCI Florida regional manager. “This caliber of a system could bring major flooding and damages along Florida’s East Coast.”
In addition to making sure residents have emergency kits and plans ready, PCI urges residents and business owners to take precautionary measures to prevent damage to vulnerable property. Flooding from storm surge during hurricanes and tropical storms can be especially dangerous for residents along the coast and further inland. PCI recommends that homeowners who sustain damage report it as early as possible to their insurance company.
McFaddin says flood insurance is advisable, but “there is typically a 30-day waiting period between the date of purchase and when flood coverage will go into effect.”
PCI hurricane precautions
Review your property insurance policy, especially the “declarations” page, and check whether your policy pays replacement costs or actual cash value for a covered loss.
Inventory household items, and photograph or videotape them for further documentation. Keep this information and insurance policies in a safe place.
Keep the name, address and claims-reporting telephone number of your insurer and agent in a safe and easily accessible place.
Protect your property by covering all windows with plywood or shutters, moving vehicles into the garage when possible, and placing grills and patio furniture indoors.
Keep all receipts for any repairs so your insurance company can reimburse you.
Check with your insurance adjuster for referrals to professional restoration, cleaning and salvage companies if additional assistance is needed.
Make sure watercraft are stored in a secure area, like a garage or covered boat dock. A typical homeowners policy will cover property damage in limited instances for small watercraft, and separate boat policies will provide broader, more extensive property and liability protection for larger, faster boat, yachts, jet skis and wave runners.
There will certainly be an extended period with power outages. After the storm, empty out your freezer and refrigerator of all perishable items and put in covered trash receptacles. Unplug all appliances and electronics since there will certainly be surges when power is restored.
Be mindful of downed power lines when going outside after the storm. Broken branches can also be dangerous and will continue to fall given the winds and rain that follow the storm. Remove debris from your property to ensure continued safety.
Rarely does a buyer get a place that is truly in “move-in” condition. By the time you’ve signed a contract, you have lots of ideas about how you’ll live in this home, how you’ll customize it to suit you and your family, and what work needs to be done.