Protecting your home against winter’s ‘silent killer’

Inspections Chicago IL.It’s colorless, odorless and the No. 1 cause of accidental poisoning in the United States. And, it worsens in the winter.Known as the silent killer, carbon monoxide (CO) is responsible for an average of 450 deaths and 20,000 emergency room visits each year, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. With more than two-fifths of all CO poisonings occurring between December and February, homeowners are at increased risk once temperatures begin to drop.

During the winter months, many families turn to heating sources they might not use at other times of the year says Deborah Hanson, director of external affairs for First Alert, the most trusted name in home safety. While these heating sources may be effective at providing warmth, they also can pose great risks if not used properly. To help protect loved ones from the dangers of CO poisoning, it is important for homeowners to take proper precautions when dealing with any kind of fuel-burning heat source.

First Alert recommends the following tips and tools for keeping your home and loved ones warm – and safe – this winter and all year long:

Protect against CO poisoning

Run kitchen vents or exhaust fans any time the stove is in use. The kitchen stove is among the most frequent sources of CO poisoning in the home. To help eliminate danger of overexposure, never use the oven to heat a home. Always run exhaust fans when cooking, especially during the holidays when stoves are left on for longer periods of time. Also, open a nearby window periodically when cooking to allow fresh air to circulate.

Never use generators indoors. In the case of a power outage, portable electricity generators must be used outside only with power brought into the structure with a cord. Never use them inside the home, in a garage or in any confined area that can allow CO to collect. And be careful to follow operating instructions closely. Also refrain from using charcoal grills, camp stoves or other similar devices indoors.

Have fuel-burning appliances inspected regularly. Arrange for a professional inspection of all fireplaces and fuel-burning appliances – such as furnaces, stoves, clothes dryers, water heaters and space heaters – annually to detect any CO leaks.

Be mindful of the garage. Warming the car in the morning before work is common during the winter months, but running vehicles inside an attached garage, even if the door is open, is hazardous, as CO can leak into the home.

Install/test CO alarms. Carbon monoxide alarms are the only way to detect this poisonous gas in a home. For maximum protection, alarms should be installed on every level of the home and near each sleeping area. Test alarm function monthly and change batteries every six months. In addition, alarms should be replaced every five to seven years to ensure proper function. If the installation date is unknown, replace immediately.

For more information on carbon monoxide safety, visit

Five tips for creating a stadium-style lawn in your own backyard

Chicago Home Inspection, Home Inspector Chicago With summer on the horizon, families will be heading to backyards across the country for picnics, sports games and to simply soak up the sun. A lush green lawn is the perfect setting for these activities and will be the envy of the neighborhood. How does one achieve that well-manicured, stadium-style lawn?
Many homeowners think a professional-looking lawn requires a stringent water and fertilizer regimen. While both water and fertilizer play their part, neither is the stand-alone key to a perfect lawn. The following five tips offer homeowners simple solutions to achieving a great yard.

* Know your region. Grass seed is not one size fits all. Select the right grass seed or sod based on where you live. It’s also important to consider how you plan to use your lawn. Do you have children and pets that will be playing on it regularly, or will the purpose be primarily curb appeal? To determine the right grass, talk to your local garden center or contact the turf grass specialist at your state agriculture school.

* Only feed as needed. According to Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers, many homeowners over water their lawns, which does more harm than good. A simple trick to determine whether your lawn needs watering is to stick a screwdriver into the grass. If it enters the dirt easily, your lawn has plenty of water already. If you have trouble getting the screwdriver into the ground, it is time to give the grass a drink. It is also recommended to fertilize your lawn at least once a year. However, putting your lawn on a quarterly schedule will help achieve optimal health.

* Break out the ruler. The maintenance crews for professional sports fields are meticulous about the height of their grass because it ensures a uniform look. Grass Seed USA recommends maintaining a lawn height of about 2 inches. It’s important not to cut more than one-third of the grass height at a time to minimize damage, so aim to mow when your lawn is about 3 inches in height.

* Arm yourself with the right tools. The proper equipment can take a lawn from looking well-manicured to professional. When selecting a mower, don’t jump straight to those that pick up the grass clippings. Allowing the clippings to decompose in the lawn will add to the overall health of your yard, and when you mow often, the shavings are small and less noticeable. Adding an edger to your arsenal is another great trick for cleaning up the lines and defining your yard.

* Replenish as necessary. Grass is a natural carpet that cleans and repairs itself. It’s equipped to withstand a number of elements yet is impacted over time. If you’ve noticed that your lawn is sparse in areas, or not as full and lush as you’d like, it may be time to add more seed. The best time to plant new seed is in the fall when the temperatures are more temperate. But reseeding may be done throughout the year. The important thing is to avoid drastic temperature changes and water regularly, yet moderately, to give the seed time to absorb moisture and build roots.

Growing and maintaining a lush green lawn doesn’t have to come with a backache. Basic planning and these five quick tips will have you well on your way to a backyard prime for the summer season.

Adding Or Upgrading A Deck Can Transform Your Backyard Into An Oasis


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A home is a place of comfort and relaxation. Many homeowners are now taking to the outdoors and making this space an extension of the dream home they’ve always wanted.

One way to transform a house into a dream home is by utilizing the outdoor space with the addition of a new deck or improvements to an existing deck. A deck creates the perfect backyard oasis to escape the stresses of a busy lifestyle, to enjoy the outdoors, grill out, have a party or simply relax. With a deck, a couple can celebrate with friends, children can play outside and parents can retire in comfort.

Many alternative decking choices are available for homeowners seeking high-quality materials with low-maintenance features. Choosing to go with alternative decking materials helps homeowners save money and have more time to spend outdoors enjoying time together. While composite products will need occasional cleaning, they don’t need the sanding, staining, sealing or painting that wood decks require.

There are many choices for deck designs, materials and colors that can make choosing a dream deck a little overwhelming. But deck design tools like those found at TimberTech can help ease the deck design process without having to leave the house.

For example, TimberTech’s product selector can help homeowners determine which alternative decking material works best for their lifestyle. Families with children, pets or even special needs equipment like wheelchairs will be interested in the products offered by TimberTech that can easily withstand high traffic volumes without showing scratches or wear. These products will maintain their good looks and durability in the years to come with minimum cleaning and maintenance.

Online design tools help homeowners envision the perfect colors that match the house and find environmentally friendly decking and railing products. Some homeowners are interested in a clean appearance by using hidden fasteners or railing systems with no exposed hardware, while others pursue a more economical approach to picking the perfect decking. Railing systems provide additional safety and style while lighting options help homeowners illuminate their space for extended time on the deck once the sun has set.

The beauty of composite decking – in addition to the multitude of color and material options – is that it’s fully customizable to whatever style or look is wanted for the deck. Homeowners can opt for a deck and railing design all in one color to perfectly blend in with the house, or can go the contrasting route to make the deck a unique design feature to beautify the backyard.

Decks can be both practical and stylish, which is why many homeowners looking to enhance the look and the value of their home and increase their living space consider replanking an existing wooden deck or adding a new deck. Composite decking products provide many different style options and allow homeowners to enjoy their deck without annual sanding, staining, sealing or painting. To get started on planning a new deck or upgrading your current deck, visit

New Garage Door Technology Makes Your Life Safer; Secure

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As the American home has continued to evolve with the speed of new technology, so has the garage. In order to keep up with the everyday busy lives of homeowners and the need for these homeowners to spread out and utilize all the space within their homes, garages have become a new frontier for functioning space within the home.

The majority of homeowners use the garage as the main entrance way into their homes, making the garage door and its opener imperative to the security of the home, protecting the people and property behind it.

Before, garage doors only opened and closed to let your car in and out of the garage, and you had to be there to do it. But garage doors and openers have improved dramatically in the last decade to do more. If you’re interested in upgrading your home’s security and curb appeal, don’t forget to check out some of the newest high-tech features:

* Control from anywhere around the world: Garage door openers are high tech now, and the LiftMaster openers with MyQ Technology allow you to control your garage door – as well as other household items – from inside your house, while at the office or even from halfway across the world by using your computer or smartphone. This technology lets you monitor if the garage door is opened or closed and allows you the freedom to operate it from a remote location, perhaps to grant access to a family member or allow a delivery.

* Electronic eyes – New garage door openers come with safety sensors that prevent the door from closing if something were to be underneath. If an object breaks the beam of infrared light spanning the width of the door, the garage door won’t close – and if something were to cross the sensor as the door is closing, it would cause the door to reverse direction and open up again. This can help protect small children and pets from being struck by the closing door.

* Timers for closing – You’ve probably forgotten to close your garage door after pulling out of the driveway at least once in your life, leaving your home and property wide open to anyone passing by. New garage door openers allow you to customize the settings on your garage door opener to ensure that the door will close after one minute, five minutes or even 10 minutes of being open.

* Power out? Not a problem – The harsh winter weather can leave many homes without power for extended periods of time. LiftMaster openers are equipped with battery backup, which is very useful during a power failure in severe weather conditions, providing your family with reliable, uninterrupted access to your home and automobiles in the garage.

* Shed light on safety – Exterior lights also have seen technology upgrades, and when placed next to your garage, can deter unwanted visitors. Save money with solar powered lights, or lights that are motion-activated to brightly shine when something approaches the garage. In addition to discouraging unwanted visitors, lights also give your family members a safer environment when arriving home after dark.

Using new technology in and around your garage helps you maintain security and safety and can improve your life in so many different ways. Learn more about how the LiftMaster garage door openers with MyQ Technology can benefit your home and your family at

Achieve Winter Home Comfort

If you’re a homeowner, you probably know that home winterization is essential if you want to increase energy efficiency and comfort during the winter. In addition to the usual quick fixes, there are a few important tasks to keep in mind when preparing both the interior and exterior of your home for the harsh weather ahead.

Believe it or not, the roof plays a big role when it comes to controlling the comfort in your home. Even more, heavy snowfall and ice can lead to severe damage throughout your home if you don’t have a healthy roof.

Winter weather can cause the creation of ice dams. Walls of ice form at the edge of the roof when snow melts and runs down the roof, reaches the cold eaves and refreezes. If you don’t have the proper protection, the ice pushes under the shingles, which will cause leaks into the attic or along exterior walls, resulting in water damage that can be expensive to repair.

Make sure you keep an eye out for icicles on your roof throughout the winter. Safety should always be your first priority. Icicles are dangerous because not only can they break off and fall from the roof, but the weight of the icicles can also cause a gutter or awning to fall. If you’re worried about potential damage, hire a roofing contractor to inspect your roof to remove icicles or make any repairs before problems arise.

If your roofing contractor determines you need a new roof, use Owens Corning Deck Defense underlayment and WeatherLock Self-Sealing Ice & Water Barrier Products in conjunction with high-performance shingles to help shield your home from moisture infiltration. These two layers of a roofing system are important because they provide extra water-shedding protection under the shingles.

“Ice and water barrier products directly beneath the shingles stop water from getting into the house,” says Mel Sancrant, product technical specialist at Owens Corning. “But, it’s also important to maintain adequate insulation in your attic to prevent ice dams by making sure you keep the attic at the same temperature as the outside with proper ventilation and insulation.”

In the winter, the warm moist air generated by laundry, showers and other household activities can cause moisture build-up in the home. This moist air becomes a water vapor that transfers through your ceiling into the attic. Proper ventilation helps remove the moisture while it’s still a vapor and exhaust it out through the vents located at the top of the house.

Insulation will help maintain a comfortable temperature inside the home and promote energy efficiency. It can also reduce the amount of heat loss in your home if installed according to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) recommendation for your region. Excessive heat loss through your attic can contribute to ice damming, so proper ventilation and a well insulated home are part of a healthy roof system.

To determine if you need more insulation, simply measure what you have. Most experts agree your attic should have at least a 19 inch deep layer of insulation or you could be wasting money. If your attic falls short of the DOE recommendation for your region and the type of heating and cooling system you have installed, then add another layer of insulation. The DOE’s Energy Star website features a chart that clearly showcases the recommended level of attic insulation in each region in the United States.

There are other ways to make energy-efficient updates to your home, such caulking, weather stripping or adding an attic stairway insulator, to easily and effectively increase comfort and reduce heating costs.

A home energy audit with a qualified professional ensures a thorough inspection. In addition to helping you identify if your home is properly insulated and air sealed, the professional will shed light on ways you can conserve hot water and electricity.

Ensure your home has a healthy roof, proper insulation and an adequate air sealing system if you want to achieve an optimal level of comfort and energy efficiency in your home and protect it from the elements this winter.

Seasonal Fire Safety Tips

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There’s no place like home for the holidays and no better place to implement good fire safety practices.

Here are a few tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI):

•    If you purchase new decorations, shop only at reputable retailers. Make sure the products have been approved for safe use by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

•    Carefully inspect each electrical decoration and extension cord before use; discard any damaged items. Cracked sockets, bare or frayed wires, and loose connections may cause a serious shock or fire.

•    Avoid overloading electrical outlets, which can overheat and start a fire.

•    If you purchase a live Christmas tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree will stay green longer and is less of a fire hazard than a dry tree. Be sure to keep the stand filled with water.

•    For artificial trees, look for the label “fire resistant,” indicating that the tree is more resistant to burning.

•    Place your tree and other decorations at least three feet away from heat sources, like space heaters and the fireplace.

•    Never use burning candles on or near your tree.

•    Turn off all decorations, and extinguish candles and flames before leaving the house or going to sleep.

•    Home fires involving cooking peak on major holidays with traditions of cooking, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Never leave the kitchen when something is cooking.

•    Heating equipment also causes a significant number of fires. Have your heating system cleaned and inspected by a qualified service professional at least once a year.

•    Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, such as bedding, curtains, furniture, paper, and clothing.

•    Turn space heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.

•    Finally, make sure your home is protected by an adequate number of smoke alarms. Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside each sleeping area. Test them monthly.

By following these simple steps, you can help ensure your holidays are memorable for all the right reasons. For more information, visit

More than 1,400 fires a year start with Christmas trees or holiday decorations.