6 Common Household Things That Can Spark Dangerous House Fires

6 Common Household Things That Can Spark Dangerous House Fires

According to the American Red Cross, the frequency of house fires increases in the fall and winter. December and January are the months when residential fires occur the most often. In fact, the average person will deal with at least five fires in their lifetime. While most fires in the home are small and easily contained, they still cost over $7 billion each year in property damage. The good news is that most household fires are preventable. To help protect your home from fire, follow these simple tips.

Space Heater Precautions

Many homes, especially older houses built before energy efficient materials were available, have cold spots that furnaces may not reach. People who live in homes with cold spots often use portable plug-in heaters. However, portable heaters are one of the leading causes of house fires in the country. That does not mean you shouldn’t use space heaters, but you should follow some safety rules. Keep heaters three feet away from flammable items and plug the heater directly into an outlet, not an extension cord. Turn the heater off when you are sleeping as most space heater accidents occur when the heater is unattended.

Practice Cooking Safety

Unattended stove top cooking is another leading cause of residential fires. Most cooking fires happen in the first five minutes of cooking, and although it may be tempting to walk away from the stove, it is critical that you remain within reach of anything you are cooking should a fire develop. If you are baking, it is okay to leave the kitchen, but check back often. Be sure that flammable items like dish towels, paper towels or oven mitts are at least three feet from the stove. If a fire develops, turn off the stove, cover the pan with a lid and let it cool. Do not try to move the pan until it is cool to avoid spilling the contents. Keep a fire extinguisher near the stove at all times and it is a good idea to invest in elbow-length fire-resistant cooking gloves.

Reduce Use of Extension Cords

Extension cords can be very helpful when your cord does not quite reach the outlet. However, we tend to plug too much into extension cords, a problem that is especially frequent during the holidays. Overloaded or damaged extension cords cause 3,300 fires each year. Touch each extension cord. If it is warm, it is overloaded. Never run extension cords under rugs or across travel paths. It is also not recommended that you tape them to floors and never staple or nail them. Do not string several short cords together to make one long cord.

Avoid Fireplace and Wood Stove Fires

There is nothing more satisfying than a hot fire on a cold winter’s night or the glow of a wood stove when the weather outside is nasty. To avoid a fire getting out of hand in a fireplace or wood stove, have your chimney inspected several times each year. Be sure to put out any fires in fireplaces before you leave the house or go to bed. Keep flammable objects at least five feet from both fireplaces and wood stoves. Embers can smolder for up to two weeks, so be sure to empty ashes into a metal container and store them away from anything flammable for at least two weeks. Clean the fireplace and flue at least once each year.

Candle Safety

Candles have grown in popularity over the past few years but so have fires caused by candles. From 2009 to 2013, candles caused three percent of household fires. Never light candles sitting on tablecloths or near curtains. Only place lit candles on sturdy, stable surfaces away from children and pets. As candles soften, a hot candle can tip out of a holder, igniting things around it which is why you should never burn candles unattended. If possible, switch to electric candle warmers or battery-operated candles with scent.

Christmas Tree Precautions

Although it is more common for a live tree to cause a fire at Christmas time, artificial trees can also develop problems that can lead to fire. Check all bulbs and wires for damage before plugging them in. Do not use the old bubble lights on your tree even if they have been handed down through generations. Bubble lights are five watts each, so even if you only have 100 lights, that’s 500 watts of heat on a tree. Keep trees away from open sources of flame and do not overload sockets.

In addition to these tips to avoid house fires, be sure to install and maintain smoke detectors in your home. Learn how to use your fire extinguisher before there is a fire and create an escape plan with your family. Practice escaping the house using various escape routes as well. For more information on fire safety, contact us by phone at 215-322-0110 or visit us online.

Home Repairs That Should Be Fixed Imediately

Home repairs are never fun and exciting things to do. Many are expensive and take a considerable amount of time and energy. Because of this, we often put them off indefinitely. Things like squeaky floors or light switches that don’t always work may get pushed to the side so that you can concentrate on other things in the house. However, there are some home repairs that you should not neglect as they can lead to costlier repairs down the road or safety issues that could be deadly.

Roof Repairs

If you notice water stains on your ceiling or walls, you need to have your roof repaired immediately. Failure to fix a leaking roof can lead to mold growth, structural damage or even fire if the water connects with an electrical source.

Missing Shingles

After a storm that includes heavy rain and wind, you should inspect your roof for missing or damaged shingles. It is possible a loose shingle may not be visible from the ground, so climb on the roof to check for any that may have been damaged. Replace any missing or damaged shingles immediately to avoid roof damage as well as damage to the interior of your home.

Sagging Roof

If it appears that a section of your roof is sagging, you need to have it repaired as soon as you can. A sagging roof can allow moisture to build in your attic and could weaken the structure of the wood. This can lead to exterior wall cracks and poor ventilation in your attic.

Foundation Cracks

Over time, it is possible small cracks could develop in your foundation. If an inspection reveals small cracks, you need to repair them before they become large cracks or it could require a full foundation replacement. This can cost as much as $100,000. Cracks can also lead to leaks under your home and parts of the concrete could actually collapse. If your home is not supported properly, the results could be life-threatening.

Gas Odor

Propane and natural gas are heavier than air, leading them to pool in low areas of your home. If you detect a rotten-egg-like smell, vacate your home immediately and call the gas company. Open doors and windows before you leave the house to dissipate the gas as accumulated propane or natural gas can lead to an explosion.

Leaking Pipes

Water can cause significant damage to your home, including structural damage and mold growth. Mold can lead to health issues, some of which can be severe. If you use municipal water, a leak can cost you hundreds of dollars in extra water fees as well. Check under your sinks several times each year to be sure pipes are not leaking. You should also check exposed pipes in basements, attics and crawlspaces regularly. If you see any leaks, even small ones, contact a plumber immediately.

Mold and Mildew

There is really no “good” mold or mildew, so when you see evidence of mold growth, you need to deal with it as quickly as possible. Just eliminating the mold is not enough, however, as you need to determine what caused the growth in the first place. Minor mold and mildew growth, such as in a corner near a shower where a shower curtain has not been completely closed, can be easily treated with common household bleach.

Electrical Problems

Electrical issues cause more than 40,000 fires each year and many of them could easily have been avoided. Circuit breakers that kick unexpectedly, flickering lights or outlets that are warm to the touch are all symptoms of an electrical problem. Contact an electrician if you notice any electrical issues in your home.

Gutter Debris

Probably one of the least pleasant household chores is clearing debris from gutters. It may seem like a minor problem, but clogged gutters can lead to major problems in your home. Gutters pull rainfall from your home and if water cannot drain, it builds up in pools. This can lead to fascia rot or damage to your foundation when rainfall overflows the gutters and does not drain away from the home. In areas where there is extreme cold, clogged gutters can lead to ice dams that can damage your roof. Clean your gutters twice each year to allow water to flow properly away from your home.

Driveway Cracks

Although you may look at cracks in your driveway as nothing more than a cosmetic issue, your driveway is actually designed to pull water away from your foundation. Cracks could lead to water build-up which may damage your foundation. In addition, cracks could grow larger and become a tripping hazard to guests and family.

Damage to Decks

Worn or missing flashing, the thin layer of material designed to keep water from your home, can lead to water damaging the ledger board. It can also weaken the fasteners that keep yoru deck together. Weakened wood and connectors can have deadly consequences if the deck is overloaded. Worn and wooden boards can also be tripping hazards, so replace any damaged wood as soon as possible and check the flashing on a regular basis.

Dryer Vents

Cleaning the lint filter before each use may seem unnecessary, but it could actually save your home. It is also important to clear the vent, the hose that connects the dryer to the outside, of any debris or lint as well. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of FEMA, there are an average of 2,900 home clothes dryer fires each year, many due to build-up of dryer lint in the vents. The lint screen in the drum of your dryer only removes about 25 percent of the lint, with the remaining 75 percent traveling through the ducts and often getting trapped on the sides.

These simple but important tips can protect your home from significant damage and many of them will protect your family and friends from potential illness or injury. For more information on keeping your home safe, contact TriCounty Exteriors at 215-322-0110 or visit us online.

Pitched Roof or Flat Roof Which Is Better

Pitched Roof or Flat Roof: Which Is Better?

Your roof plays a key role in your home’s value as it protects it from the elements and offers insulation from hot or cold air.

When you are building a house, you may have the option of a pitched or flat roof but you may have no idea which option is better.

There are five main reasons why a pitched roof is the better option, even though they are often more expensive than flat roofs.

Longer Lasting

Pitched roofs have a longer life than flat roofs and are much easier to fix. Like everything in your home, your roof can suffer wear and tear, especially since it is exposed to the elements at all times. The materials used for pitched roofs tend to be more durable and resistant to weather. This means that, although flat roofs may cost less initially, a pitched roof is less expensive for the long term.

Better in Inclement Weather

In areas of the world that receive a significant amount of ice and snow, you will notice that the roofs are often steeply pitched. This allows snow, ice and rain to drain from the roof easily, preventing damage. Flat roofs do not drain as well and must be inspected regularly to be sure any drains installed are working properly.

Ground-Level Inspection

It is easier to inspect a pitched roof from the ground, allowing you to identify problems before they become big issues. Unseen roof damage can lead to extensive water damage inside your attic or around flashing that separates roofing materials from skylights, chimneys or other fixtures. However, if you do need to access the roof for inspection, a pitched roof is much more difficult to stand on than a flat roof. You may want to consider hiring a specialist to inspect the roof if yours has a steep pitch.

Better Storage Options

A pitched roof gives you the opportunity to include an attic in your home design. Most pitched roofs allow ample space at the top of the house for an attic or even a cozy loft bedroom or office. If you begin using the attic area for storage, it is not difficult to convert the space to finished room in the future.

Whether you choose a pitched for flat roof, there are many options available for roofing materials, including composition dimensional, asphalt and wood shingles. You can select a material that will not only protect your home but also match the design of your home’s exterior. If you are considering replacing your roof, contact us today to learn what options are available. You can speak to one of our friendly customer service representatives by phone or complete the simple form online to learn more about our roofing products.