Monthly Archives: January 2015

  • Safety and Sanitation: Home Fire Safety Tips

    According to the U.S. Fire Administration, it takes less than a minute for a small flame to turn into a major fire. Within a few minutes, a home can get filled with thick black smoke and become engulfed in flames. With holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, and New Years Eve still to come in the calendar year, you will most certainly increase your usage of electrical equipment, lights, and outlets in the upcoming months. Additionally, your family will cook and entertain guests more often than usual. This increased usage of hot surfaces and electricity can put a home at increased risk for fires. Here are some important home fire safety tips to consider: Fire

    Install or update your smoke alarm. Choose the same day each year to change the battery on the smoke alarm. Select your birthday or a special holiday to ensure that you will not forget. There should be a smoke alarm on every floor of the house, including basements and attics. If possible, update the system with interconnected alarms – when one alarm goes off, the others will sound. Interconnected alarms will get everyone out of the house faster in case of a fire. Alarms should be tested on a monthly basis, and everyone in the house should be familiar with the sound.

    As extreme as it seems, planning a family escape route is crucial. The route should be practiced on a monthly basis from every room in the house, so that all residents know how to get out. Practicing will also decrease panic in the event of a real fire. Everyone in the house – even toddlers – should participate in practice runs.

    Depending on the size of your home (and budget), install a sprinkler system. Doing so will reduce property damage, injuries, and the chance of fatalities.

    Know how to use the fire extinguisher. Extinguishers should be used when a fire is contained – like a fire in a wastebasket. Keep the extinguisher easily accessible and replace the gauge as indicated on the extinguisher. If you have questions on how to use the extinguisher, your local fire department is a great source of information.

    Other tips:

    • When cooking or grilling outdoors, position the grill away from easily flammable surfaces, such as low hanging tree branches.
    • Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stovetop. Be careful with kitchen items including oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, curtains, and towels.
    • Do not use damaged or loose electrical cords.
    • Avoid running extension cords under carpets.
    • Do not allow kids to play near open fires and space heaters.
    • Keep matches and lights out of children’s sight and reach.
    • Do not leave portable heaters unattended if they are ON. Turn them to OFF if you are leaving the home.
  • Weekend Warrior: How to Make a Concrete Fire Pit

    A fire pit in the backyard can allow you and your guests to enjoy outdoor time, regardless of the season. Fire pits can be used for spring and summer evenings, but can also serve as s’mores headquarters during the fall and winter months. Adding some character to your backyard with a fire pit bowl can be done with a few materials, some space, and patience. This DIY project can be completed over the course of a weekend. Fire Pit

    Necessary supplies include a tarp, sand, permanent marker, concrete, straws, a wheelbarrow, a trowel, a garden hose, plastic sheeting, board, and a level – which may be purchased at

    To begin, place a tarp that is at least 10’ x 10’ square on the ground. Mark a circle that is at least 3 feet wide on the tarp with a permanent marker. Pour out a bag of fine sand in the middle of the tarp and add enough water so that everything sticks together. Start mounding the materials up.

    Next, mix another bag of sand with water, using the hand trowel. Pile this wet sand on top of the original mound. Mold and smooth into an inverted bowl shape that is as wide as the circle you marked on the tarp. Continue to add wet sand until the mound is as big as you want your fire pit to be. Keep it covered with a plastic sheet to prevent the moisture from drying out too quickly.

    Prepare the concrete by pouring it into the wheelbarrow and adding water slowly to avoid making the mixture too wet. Mold the wet concrete over the mound of sand, keeping it about 2-3 inches thick. (Keep your wet concrete covered with a plastic sheet between layers.) While the concrete is wet, insert a few straws through the top of the mound, which will allow any rainwater to drain.

    Place a board on top of the wet concrete and use a level to make sure the base is straight for the bowl to sit on, once you invert it. Allow the mound to dry for 48 hours, keeping it covered to ensure that it dries at a good pace.

    Finally, lift the concrete bowl off the sand mound and remove the straws. You can sand it smooth based on your preference. Set the pit in place, and put a few gel fuel canisters inside. Add a grill grate in the bowl and cover with a layer of rocks that can stand up to the heat. Light the grill grate up and you’ve got yourself a homemade fire pit bowl.

  • Handyman Help: Framing and Insulating the Basement

    Turning an unfinished basement into a comfortable, beautiful, and functional living space can increase the property value of a home by thousands of dollars. Utilizing the space for a family room, office, workout area, or even a bedroom is possible with some framing and insulation work. This handyman project is easier than you think. Home Renovation

    Necessary tools include a utility knife, speed square, sawhorses, safety goggles, hammer, tape measure, circular saw, caulk gun, cordless drill/driver, chalk line, level, drill bit set, dust mask, hearing protection, hammer drill, and stepladder. Most of these items may be purchased from In terms of materials, you’ll need extruded polystyrene insulation, foam adhesive, treated 2x4 lumber, 2x4 lumber, 2x2 lumber, construction adhesive, 2 ½” concrete screws, 1-5/8” screws, ½” plywood, 3” screws, fiberglass insulation, 8d nails, and 16d nails.

    Once your plans have been approved by your local building inspections department, cut ¾” extruded polystyrene insulation to fit against the rim joists. Spread a ¼” bead of adhesive on masonry walls and stick the insulation sheets into place. Seal potential air leaks by caulking all gaps and seams between the framing and the foam along the rim joists.

    Snap caulk lines 4 inches away from the insulation on the exterior walls. Cut 2x4 bottom and top plates. Lay out stud locations every 16 inches on each plate. Add a ¼” bead of construction adhesive to the bottom plates. Position the bottom plates. Predrill the plates with a hammer drill and anchor with concrete screws.

    Nail 2x4 blocking about every 3 feet into the first floor joist to support the top plate. Plumb from the edge of the bottom plate to the blocking with a straight 2x4 – ensure it is level. Snap a chalk line and screw the top plate to the blocking with 3-inch screws. Next, measure between the plates at each layout mark and cut each stud to length. Toenail the studs into place at the top and bottom with two 8d nails in one side and a third centered on the other side.

    Cut half-wall studs to ensure that the finished wall is slightly taller than the masonry. Lay the stud locations out on the plate and nail the studs in place with the 16d nails. Angle the knee walls up and fasten to the floor. Next, fasten the blocks through the foam into the masonry at every third stud with 3-inch concrete screws. Plumb and screw the studs to the blocking for a solid wall.

  • Safety & Sanitation: How to Warm Your Home Safely, Without Turning up the Heat

    Turning up the heat during winter can mean hundreds (even thousands) of additional expenses throughout the season. While everyone has a right to be comfortable and warm at home, many individuals prefer to use alternate methods to get that extra bit of coziness. Here are some ways to warm your home safely without turning up the heat too high: Warm House

    • Ceiling fans can be changed seasonally. In the winter, drive warm air downward by rotating the ceiling fan to clockwise and lowering the speed.
    • Changing your sheets is a simple yet effective way to warm up in a cost effective manner. Use flannel sheets instead of cotton sheets and use a down comforter. Create more warmth during the evenings by covering yourself with a blanket while watching TV, reading a book, or relaxing in the living room.
    • Close off unused rooms. Keep bedroom and bathroom doors shut to contain the heat in areas that are being used.
    • Utilize rugs to keep your floors (and feet) warm during the winter. If not insulated, floors can account for as much as 10 percent of heat loss. Having rugs in many areas can provide additional insulation, preventing cool air from rising up into the room.
    • If you are working in a confined space such as your workshop or garage, consider using a space heater such as any Reddy, Master, and Remington brands instead of heating the entire home. The hot surface ignitor for various air heater brands can be found at
    • Rearrange the furniture so that the sofa is not situated near windows. Avoid placing large pieces of furniture near radiators. Large pieces will absorb the heat instead of distributing it throughout the room.
    • To keep warm air within a room, block off the space at the bottom of doors and windows with fabric or newspaper. Cold air generally sneaks in under these openings.
    • Layer up. Wear extra layers to stay warm. Scarves and thermal socks can provide additional comfort.

    Keep hot water ready for hot chocolate or tea. Even if you don’t want to drink a beverage, wrapping your hangs around a warm mug can positively impact your body heat level.

  • Safety and Sanitation: Jobsite Safety during Winter

    Construction projects do not stop during the winter. Contractors and other jobsite managers must balance productivity with jobsite safety during the cold months. You might have to deal with everything from sub-zero temperatures to blizzards on a regular basis. Winter safety on construction sites is a priority because injuries or accidents can stop an entire project. Here are ways to keep jobsites safe during winter: Job Site

    Supervisors should inspect the site every morning for potential problems and keep a running list of observations. Some problems may have immediate solutions, while others will need to be managed throughout the winter.

    Managers should ensure that all workers know the signs of frostbite and other cold weather-related injuries, so that assistance can be provided as soon as possible. In the event of a medical emergency, contact information for the nearest hospital should be on speed dial. It may be a good idea to require all employees to add the hospital contact number to their contact list.

    Paths on construction sites should remain clear, and get sprinkled with salt if snowy conditions are expected.

    Clearing snow on a jobsite should not create more problems. Piling up the snow can be more convenient than melting it, but if the pile is too high, it can block the line of sight for important signals or views that workers need.

    Note probable locations for the formation of icicles that can fall and cause injury. Inspect these locations regularly and remove icicle buildup with care.

    A portable, heavy-duty heater like this forced air kerosene heater can be used to provide warmth. This model has smooth rolling wheels and wrap around handles, heating up to 3,000 square feet. While useful on construction sites, heaters can also create hazards. Managers should be aware of these potential dangers and relay warnings to all crewmembers.

    Heaters that were used last year should be inspected prior to usage again this season, to ensure proper operation. Place heaters on a sturdy, fire-resistant surface and make sure hoses are protected from damage and excess heat. Keep combustible materials at least 10-15 feet away from heaters.

    Keeping a jobsite safe during winter means being proactive about potential problems. Contractors and jobsite managers should plan ahead, so that workers can continue to work comfortably without major problems occurring on the jobsite.

  • Weekend Warrior: Build a Backyard Retreat for Winter

    A cabin retreat in the backyard is a helpful space to have all year long. It can be used as a study area for the kids, a workshop, an office, and a family entertainment spot. With cold weather affecting many states in the nation, building a deck to prepare for icy conditions is a weekend project that can be done quickly and comfortably, especially when utilizing the Hunting Buddy Portable Heater. The heater, which can be purchased on, can heat up to 300 square feet of space, making it perfect for working early or late on cold days. Outdoor Retreat

    Before starting the backyard cabin, ensure that you have approval for construction on the property. Next, determine a level 12x20’ site where the cabin will be built. Position one cinder block on each of the four corners and place two additional blocks equi-distant apart on each of the two long sides, with one extra block centered on each end.

    Framing the deck on top of the blocks can be done using two 2”x6”x20’ boards for the sides and 11 2”x6”x12’ boards for the floor joists. Cut the boards down to 11 feet 9 inches, to keep the cabin width at 12 feet. Measure the floor section diagonally to square and sheet the rear 12x16’ portion of the deck with ¾”x4’x8’ sheets of tongue-and-groove-OSB.

    The walls should be framed for a 12x16’ building, leaving a 4x12’ front porch. Build the walls using 2”x4”x92 5/8” precut studs at 24” on center. Each sidewall should be built at 15’ 10-1/2” long to leave room for a front cripple to support the porch beams. Front and rear walls will be 11’x5” to fit between the sidewalls. Use pressure-treated 2”x4” boards for the bottom plates.

    Frame both sidewalls to fit a 24” wide by 36” tall window, and frame the front for a 32” door. Install headers for the door and windows. Install a 6”x6”x12’ pressure-treated post on each front corner, burying them at least 36” in the ground. Notch them to accept a double 2”x8” header by cutting 3 x 7-1/2” off from the outside top of the post. To make headers, cut 49 ½” pieces from 2”x8” boards and nail two together for each. Place the header on top of the post and run it to the cripple on the front of the sidewall.

    Use 1”x6”x12’ pressure-treated decking to cover the front section of the deck. Install the 4’x8’ sheets of exterior reverse board on all four walls, after cutting out the door and window frames. Install the 11 roof trusses 24” on center. Sheet the roof with 7/16”x4’x8’ sheets of OS. Cover the roof with #15 felt paper. Install the roofing shingles as well as the exterior reverse board on the front and rear gables.

    Finally, install the windows and the door, with caulking around them. Finish the job by painting the door and staining the exterior.

  • Safety and Sanitation: Keeping Outdoor Workers Safe During Winter

    Keeping outdoor workers safe during winter is extremely important. Inexperienced workers may think it is okay to work with just a coat on, but supervisors and employees must be equally diligent about winter conditions. Seasoned workers know how to keep warm in extreme weather, but managers should consider advising all workers on how to stay safe and warm while working outdoors. Construction Worker

    • Thermal insulated coveralls are recommended, as they allow easy movement while largely eliminating core body heat loss. While coveralls can be a bit on the costly side, supervisors can consider the investment worthwhile, as it decreases the chances of having to stop a job due to an injury.
    • Helmet liners under a hard hat help to preserve head and neck heat. Fleece lined fabric is also a comfortable insulator. The hard hat breaks the wind and allows the liner to keep heat in. The longer the liner, the better the coverage.
    • If possible, workers should opt for gloves that allow them to use liners. The gloves will need to be slightly bigger in size, but the extra layer of liner insulation will do a better job keeping the worker comfortable while working.
    • Eye protection such as goggles protects the eyeballs from irritation, dry air, and wind. Glasses also provide a safety barrier from flying dust, hail, and loose materials.
    • Scarves allow an extra layer of protection around the neck and chest.
    • Double layer thermal socks and insulated boots can reduce the chances of heat escaping and cold air from entering around the body. Workers who must stand the majority of their day should try to stand on a mat, plywood, or another insulating barrier, if they will be outdoors for long stretches of time.
    • Using skin creams and barrier creams on exposed skin can reduce the chances of hypothermia and frostbite.

    In addition to checking on the condition of workers when it comes to extreme weather conditions, managers should consider purchasing the 85,000-125,000 BTU DeWALT propane heater for outdoor jobsites from The heater has a directional spout to direct warmth in the right direction, providing 7 hours of run time when using a minimum 40-pound propane tank size. For smaller outdoor sites, a 35,000-65,000 BTU DeWALT propane heater is also available. The latter option works with a minimum 20-pound propane tank size. Both options reduce coldness and increase comfort for outdoor workers.

  • Safety and Sanitation: Checklist for Winter Cabin Safety

    Renting a cabin this winter? The experience can be unforgettable in a positive way for some folks, but unforgettable in a bad way for others. The difference often comes down to preparation. While a cabin in the middle of the woods can often indicate beautiful scenery, great skiing, and bonding between friends and family, individuals who are not prepared can have negative experiences. Staying in a cabin usually entails bringing along many of your own essentials. Here is a list of must-haves for your winter cabin trip, so you don’t get stuck driving an extra 20 miles for toiletries. Cabin

    Clothing: Packing the right clothes is important for the various activities on the agenda. When packing, consider layering for extra warmth. Standard clothing options include pants, sweaters, sweatpants, shirts, warm socks, slippers, (thermal) underwear, gloves, hats, scarves, coats, waterproof boots, snow pants, and sunglasses.

    Food: Prepare a tentative menu ahead of time based on the cooking equipment available at the cabin. In addition to food supplies, take condiments, cooking oil/butter, ice, bottled water, and easy-to-make pre-packaged food, in case of weather issues.

    Kitchen Items: Cabin owners may leave behind some pots and utensils, but if you want to use your own supplies, you’ll need to come prepared. Sample items include utensils, knives, spoons/spatulas, plates/bowls/cups, pots and pans, storage containers, foil or plastic wrap, a cooler, a meat thermometer, napkins, coal or wood for the barbeque, and dish soap.

    Toiletries: Private cabins generally have a full bathroom that can be used for cleaning up after a long day on the slopes. Make sure to pack these must have items: toilet paper, hygiene products, towels, shampoo and conditioner, a comb, shaving cream and razor, a hair dryer, hand soap, lotion, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrush, mouthwash, floss, medications, and sunscreen.

    In addition to packing bedding items and games, you shouldn’t forget emergency items. These items include cell phones, radios, firewood and matches, flashlights, snow shovels, maps, compasses, utility knives, scissors, first aid kits, and hand sanitizers. An electric heater from is also a great choice, in case of power outages.

    When packing, keep the length of your stay in mind, to secure the appropriate amount of supplies. Consider the number of people staying in the cabin, when determining how much food to take.

  • Weekend Warrior: Winterizing Your Home

    Winterizing the home simply means preparing your property for cold weather. While these tips can be utilized during winter, preparing ahead of time can save you time and money. If you wait until the dead of winter to prepare your home, you may want to use an oil heater from to stay warm and prevent frostbite in freezing temperatures. An advanced weekend warrior can likely utilize these six tips over the course of one weekend, but beginner or intermediate DIYers should space them out over the course of a few weekends. Winter Home

    To keep cold air out from getting inside the home, fill all of the voids on the outside of the house. If you notice any gaps, use properly rated expansion foam to fill in holes.

    Remove any connected hoses from the spigots, draining them completely of water. Insulate all hose spigots, unless your water lines have valves that shut off the supply of water to the exterior spigots. For added durability and protection, consider using a hard plastic shell cover over the spigot.

    Many homes have water lines that run through non-insulated areas such as attics and crawl spaces. Though not directly exposed to harsh weather conditions, these pipes are still affected by the weather outside. When water freezes inside a pipe, the water expands, which can cause expensive water damage to the interior of your home. To reduce the chances of this happening, wrap all your water pipes in foam insulation.

    Check weather stripping around sliding glass doors, as they tend to wear out over time. If they need to be replaced, simply remove the old one and install the new stripping by removing the adhesive strip on one side and positioning the stripping properly in place.

    Sealing gaps and voids around windows and doors is an obvious choice. A less obvious insulation project involves plugs and switches. Fix this issue by installing foam insulation inserts.

    If your home has a fireplace, install fireplace doors and keep them closed. These doors are great for a few reasons. Closed doors keep embers from entering the living space. The doors prevent cold air from getting into the home via the fireplace, allowing greater energy efficiency. Properly installed fireplace doors keep warm air inside the home.

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