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Trick Or Threat – Is Your Home Safe This Halloween?
By Mike Holmes
Friday, October 12th, 2018 @ 11:19am
Ghouls and goblins and fairies and princesses, they’re all going to be out October 31st for one of my favourite times of the year – Halloween. The children will have their bags of candies, their spooky costumes on and ready to make their way to your walkway to knock on your door. The question is, how safe is that walkway to your home? Are there visible cracks or maybe ice forming on your roof? It can get really cold this time of year for some of us and that’s why it’s important to ask these questions before the scariest time of the year.
Now like I mentioned I love Halloween, I love to get out of the overalls and dress into something fun.
Those of you with children will probably be looking forward to Halloween as well. And when the kids dress up and come knocking at your door you need to make sure it’s safe for them to do so. Did you know that if someone gets hurt on your property due to your negligence you could be held liable? Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when making your home safe this Halloween.
As Canadians we should expect any unexpected weather and that goes for some of you in the States. One week it’s warm and sunny and next week we could be covered in snow. You need to be prepared for the cold weather and those slippery walkways. Something commonly used by homeowners for walkways are deicers.
The most common deicer is sodium chloride—what many people call road or rock salt. It’s the most inexpensive. But there’s also calcium chloride, urea, potassium chloride and magnesium chloride. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride melt ice faster than salt and because of that they cost more. And calcium chloride is corrosive. It destroys grass roots. Urea and potassium chloride can be found in fertilizer, so they’re safe for your lawn. The problem is that urea can be corrosive and potassium chloride damages concrete. Damaging concrete and grass roots? That’s not good.
I’m not a big fan of salt. And there are a few reasons why:
- It destroys your grass.
- It can make your pet sick.
- Salt only works best when the temperature is above -9 degrees Celsius (or 15 degrees Fahrenheit).
- It eats away at the mortar in brick.
So what do I recommend? I’d rather use sand or gravel over salt because they’re safer natural alternatives. But no matter what deicers you decide to go with make sure you read the package and follow instructions.
Some of you might be lucky and don’t have to worry about snow or ice but you still you need to worry about cracks. When filling in cracks in your walkways I recommend Sikaflex, a self leveling sealant for ground application and concrete fix for vertical applications. Also Sika Powerset which is a Two-part polyester and fast-curing compound designed for fast repair of cementitious and stucco substrates.
Trick or Trip
Most likely Old Man Winter didn’t show up early so no need to shovel snow or deice your walkway. If that’s the case you still need to inspect your walkway for tripping hazards. Make sure those spooky Halloween decorations you have plugged in are not a tripping hazard. Also keep things like hoses, sprinklers and random objects off the walkways.
Decorating tip from Eaton: When decorating with lights, inspect and test each string before you hang it to make sure the cord isn’t damaged.
Candles can enhance the mood of a Halloween fright, but we know how busy the entrance to your home will be. Avoid burning candles because with all the traffic coming to your home you don’t want anyone bumping or knocking off candles that could potentially start a fire. Also avoid using candles in your Halloween pumpkins because the flame can still catch to a costume or Halloween ornament. Keep it safe by using a light powered by a battery. Speaking of pumpkins, I would actually recommend spraying it with a mold control product.
Decks & Handrails
When checking your deck, look for any signs of deterioration, whether it’s cracking or decay along any wooden components, rust or corrosion on any hardware, or missing and loose connections, especially along stairs, railings, joists and deck boarding. Also, when looking at handrails make sure they’re sturdy and not loose. You don’t want trick or treaters holding the handrails for support and the handrails giving away.
Did You Know?
Handrail assemblies and guards should be able to resist a single concentrated load of about 200 pounds, applied in any direction at any point along the top of the handrail.
A truly scary thing is an ice dam; thick ridges of solid ice that builds up along the eaves of your home. They can tear off gutters, loosen shingles, and cause water to back up and pour into your house. That’s why I’m a big fan of using an ice and water shield – all over a roof, as a secondary membrane. Under the building code, the minimum requirement (which I don’t think is good enough) calls for the installation of roofing felt over the entire roof, and an ice and water shield just along the eaves. It forms a barrier, and will help prevent moisture from working its way into your home.
There are some temporary solutions such as using a rake or using salt to clear the ice dam but the formation of ice dams on your roof is a bigger issue that needs to be addresses. It is dangerous for anyone to walk under the ice dams.
Lastly, when you are ready to put your Halloween decorations away, use clear, plastic bins rather than organic materials such as cardboard boxes. You don’t want your decorations to fall victim to mustiness and mould-related decay.