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Home Improvement TV Shows

When it comes to home improvement projects, visual examples can teach volumes. Thus enters home improvement television.

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When it comes to home improvement projects, visual examples can teach volumes. Thus enters home improvement television. These TV shows have been around for over two decades and recently there has been an increase in the number of these shows available. However, viewers be savvy, some of the new shows are more interested in entertainment than thorough craftsmanship. Loosely grouped, there are two styles of home improvement television: Classic - shows based on a model that details and examines craftsmanship and the tools craftsmen use; and Entertaining - shows that focus on the entertaining their audience with quick flashy project run-throughs that end in "before and after" snapshots. What follows is a quick review and guide to some popular home improvement television shows and their web sites. ________________________________ Contents: Introduction Part I: Professional Home Improvement Television - Web Site Summaries & Links Part II: Entertaining Home Improvement Television - Web Site Summaries & Links Conclusion & More Programs ________________________________ Part I: Classic Home Improvement Television The Classic home improvement television shows are based on a more traditional model of a television show that concentrates on craftsmanship and itemizes the details for many of the toughest home improvement projects. Viewers gain confidence that they can build the home they want or remodel that old home with personality. These educational programs are some of the longest running home improvement television shows; perhaps the classic model speaks for their longevity. The formula for these shows usually includes: knowledgeable host or hosts, experienced and professional crews, the best or the latest tools and/or materials and finally, a large project that spans over many episodes. This Old House is probably one of the most famous and longest running of the home improvement shows (this year is the show's 25th anniversary!). This program covers two major projects every year. During the larger projects, smaller projects are shown in detail and the latest tools and materials are examined. This Old House encourages homeowners to be creative and see the potential in their property. However, this program still utilizes the use of professional crews. This should not be lost on the viewer; if you are tackling a whole home makeover, it is best not to do it alone. Even the hosts of this show bring in outside experts to show them particular stages of the project. This Old House does demystify the renovation process and provides the homeowner with an inside look to what contractors, electricians, plumbers, and other building professionals do for various home improvement projects. This program gives the homeowner the confidence to hire and work with professional craftsmen on their dream home. Whereas This Old House examines home improvement on the larger scale, its recent counterpart, Ask This Old House, has the smaller do-it-yourself projects in mind. Most of the same crew from This Old House run this show as well: general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook. Here they showcase their individual strengths and use the host of both shows, Kevin O'Connor, as their Guinea Pig and/or punch line. The jokes can be rather quirky and there a few groaners mixed in; however, the information that comes from this show is professional, thorough and easy to follow. The main scheme of the show is to answer questions that come from their viewers. They may answer questions in their studio or as a house call. The house call really illustrates how one may become a do-it-yourselfer as these gentlemen always make the homeowners get their hands dirty. Many times the homeowner does most of the project or completes it themselves after the foundation and technique are covered. This show also takes time to showcase the latest tools and materials. The short segment of 'What Is It?' challenges all the hosts to identify odd tools that can be used in home repair/improvement (enter the quirky jokes). Overall, this classic program gives homeowners a real thorough run-through on some common home repairs and improvements. Another show that uses the classic method approach to home improvement is Hometime. This show again tackles larger projects and showcases individual aspects of those projects. Viewers are encouraged to try home improvement projects but educate themselves first. Projects are covered in detail with tools and materials discussed. The techniques for completing the project are covered in detail as well. This serves to give the viewer a good knowledge base. There are only two aspects for viewers to keep in mind about this program. First, many of these projects work with a professional crew; however, the crew is not showcased. Instead the hosts spotlight most of the projects themselves. Many tasks highlighted can be completed by individual homeowners. However, because the professional crews are not as highlighted, some viewers might be mislead about the amount of work they will have to complete on their own. Second, viewer questions and projects are not answered individually. Instead, viewers may send in videos of projects they have completed which may or may not have been inspired by the show. Neither of these aspects are detrimental to the knowledge provided by this program. Hometime has been around for 19 years, it obviously has a format that works for educating viewers about home improvement. Home Again, hosted by Bob Vila, is another classic program that examines craftsmanship in home improvement. Similar to This Old House, which Bob Vila hosted from 1979-1989, this program covers roughly two major projects per season. Parts of the projects are shown in greater detail to showcase craftsmanship and/or technique. The professional crews that complete the large projects are at the forefront and the various specialists are interviewed throughout the show to help explain why they do a tasks a certain way, use this particular material, etc. This show again strives to educate the homeowner and encourage them to think of the possibilities for their home. As quoted from Bob Vila's site, he encourages the homeowner by letting them know, "You CAN build what you want. You CAN revive an older house to suit your personality. You CAN give your family more space. You CAN express your individuality through color and style…as long as you have the knowledge to use what works!" Thus, this show provides both knowledge and encouragement to the homeowner looking for home improvement help. These are only a few examples of the Classic home improvement shows on television. These shows are aimed at educating the viewer in the use of tools, types of materials available and the nitty-gitty facts about how to get some complex tasks done. It would be difficult to cover all the shows here. At the end of this article is included a list of more home improvement television shows and their web sites, take time to check them out and you might find a new favorite! Classic Home Improvement: Web Site Summaries & Links Same order as article. This Old House www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/ This show has been around for 25 years. On the main site you may see current or classic projects where the crew has worked on renovating and building homes inside and out. This show is not about quick fixes and flashy facades. Instead this show details good craftsmanship and the latest materials on the market to renovate a home meant to last. The web site does have web cams of current projects in the making. To check one out click here. Ask This Old House www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tvprograms/asktoh A fun offshoot of This Old House is Ask This Old House. Although the humor is a bit quirky, there is great information for small home improvements and repairs. The show is great if you can catch it. Like all the other home improvement shows you can use the web site to get more detailed information about certain products or services highlighted in the show. However, if you want to look at the detailed how to information, you will have to subscribe to the magazine. Have a question of your own? You may send a question directly to them online. This question may be answered on the television show or in the magazine. Hometime www.hometime.com This site has project advice, information about the show and a variety of products to help you with all your project needs. Also find lists of vendors and their contact information for materials you see used on the show. The how-to tutorials on the web site are basic, however, they do offer more free information than many of the other home improvement shows. Check out the archives to find past episodes that relate to your own projects. Copies of programs can be bought and usually cover one individual tutorial or the whole series related to construction of one house project. This show is interested in the thorough education of its viewers and avoids quick fixes. However do not expect individual attention to your particular project; this show does illustrate how projects (i.e. tiling a bathroom) are done but does not tackle individual, viewer submitted homes/projects. There is a chance to submit video of your own projects as examples of creative improvements and modeling; to find out more click here. Home Again www.bobvila.com/BVTV/HomeAgain/ This web site provides a summary of each project. Also included are materials used and information to find vendors. A selection of video clips are available online to view segments of the show. These video clips are some of the most thorough and helpful out there on the web. It is a great way to catch bits of the show you missed. The entire project on video is available for purchase as well. Check around to the rest of Bob Vila's site, he showcases other programs he has done such as his Guide to Historic Homes of America on A&E and Restore America on HGTV. Also, his site gives great home improvement information all around and is worth the exploration. Part II: Entertaining Home Improvement Television Entertaining home improvement shows have followed the trend in reality television. They are fast paced and include someone who is real (for lack of better definition); a real homeowner who has asked for help. The projects vary in size from one room or area of the home to the entire house itself. These shows strive to be different from the other shows causing some pretty wild and exciting projects. However, attention to details are not the strong point; in fact some shows are in such a hurry to meet the show deadline that the craftsmanship for the project can suffer. However, these shows do offer splashes of ideas and push viewers to be creative, to keep thinking "outside the box." Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is a great example of entertaining home improvement. In this show the entire home and landscaping is made over. Professional crews have one week to makeover a home for deserving families that really need drastic improvements to their home because of a major life event. The show provides small hints on topics such as how to improve space or what can kind of add-ons can be done on certain homes. Each member of the design team takes the viewer through their area of the home and explains why certain things were done to improve the home. Most of the show covers the design aspect rather then the nitty-gritty of how the space was remodeled, walls taken out, etc. This show entertains the viewers showing them what home improvement can accomplish but it does little to give an actual foundation in any home improvement projects they may encounter. Another extreme makeover style show is Monster House. This show truly aims to push home improvement to the extreme. These homes are changed by a team into stylized theme homes; not theme parks, but pretty close! Those who volunteer to be on the show want a drastic remodel to their boring home. Be careful what you ask for! They get a home based off an interest or passion of theirs. This may include a roman villa retreat, a jurassic find or maybe even treating their dog to the ultimate doghouse! This show doesn't show too much on how too. There are a lot of ideas and you do get to watch some of the challenges the crew faces working on the home and with each other. An added bonus is the teams that work on the house vary. The teams must work together and under the time limit in order to receive prizes of their own. Entertaining to say the least! Home "improvement" is up to the viewer to decide. One of the most popular home improvement shows (and considered one of the reasons there are so many of theses shows today) is Trading Spaces. This show isn't traditional home improvement that learns how to fix plumbing or update wiring in an old home. This show is all about the surface elements. In the show two neighbors agree to renovate one room in the others home. With a limit in budget and time it is a mad dash to make renovations and add stylish design. One guest designer directs the project room for each house. Under their guidance, decorative and improvement features are added to the space. Sometimes there is a larger home improvement project involved, such as new flooring or counter tops. However, there is little detailed guidance to these projects and the neighborly teams just "go for it" as there is more concern for deadlines and looks than craftsmanship built to last. There are good aspects to this show as it has encouraged viewers to try new things and view their living space potential rather than limitations. The entertainment value is definitely there as the before and after on these projects are highly entertaining and the reactions of the homeowners are priceless. Finally, another example of an entertaining home improvement show is While You Where Out. In this program a family member sends a loved one away while they secretly renovate a part of the house for them. Like Trading Spaces, this show is more about design than classic home improvement. However, here the designers really look to please the family rather than shock them. In this way the homeowners really do a get a home improvement to their living space. However, due to budget and time constraints, many projects are done on the surface. Additions to the room that require intensive remodeling can unfortunately be rushed and given rough surface treatment. An extra human element is added to this show when loved ones must answer questions correctly to gain extra features for the redesign. This entertaining show can give viewers ideas but some of the rushed means-to-an-end should be viewed with caution. Entertaining home improvement shows have found a niche on television. They are fast paced and a final project is revealed for viewers in an hour or less. These shows do not illustrate traditional home improvement projects. They often cut corners or do surface fixes that are more concerned with appearance than lasting craftsmanship. Viewers should be careful not to be tricked into the "simplicity" of home improvement projects. However, these programs do offer encouragement to homeowners looking at tackling home improvement projects. In fact, these shows really encourage viewers to consider splashing their personality on the property they own. Homeowners are told not be afraid to try something new and push the conventional ideas they may have of what a home should look like. Entertaining Home Improvement: Web Site Summaries & Links Same order as article. Descriptions from show web site. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition http://abc.go.com/primetime/xtremehome/ Put together one very run-down house, a deserving family, several opinionated designers, seven days and what do you get? The answer is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The show's successful first season garnered an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Reality Program. As this ratings-rich reality series enters its second season, each self-contained episode features a race against time on a project that would ordinarily take at least four months to achieve, involving a team of designers, contractors and several hundred workers who have just seven days to totally rebuild an entire house — every single room, plus the exterior and landscaping. Monster House http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/monsterhouse/ So. Tired of that same old living room? Well, you could slap a little paint on the walls, maybe. Or jazz things up with a brand-new throw rug. You might even slipcover that chewed-up old couch. Or ... you could call in Steve Watson and theMonster House crew. Sure, you and your family will have to move into an RV for a week and look on as a bunch of strangers tear apart everything you know and thought you didn't love. But remember: They have talents galore, sensitivity to your interests and an unlimited budget. Trading Spaces http://tlc.discovery.com/fansites/tradingspaces/ Ever sit in someone's home and wonder what would happen if you stripped, ripped and painted as you pleased? Find out during this one-of-a-kind decorating show when two sets of neighbors swap keys to transform a room in each other's home. They have two days, a set budget, and they're not allowed back into their own homes until the moment of truth. This is how-to with a neighborly twist. While You Where Out http://tlc.discovery.com/fansites/wywo/ ... a homeowner sneakily sends his or her partner, parent or roommate out of town for a couple of days as While You Were Out host Evan Farmer brings in a talented designer and two handy persons to work around the clock to create a new look for an indoor or outdoor space. Meanwhile, TLC surreptitiously videotapes the absent party during their getaway, gaining fodder for the pop-quiz portions of the show. Prizes are awarded based on the answers that could enhance the finished project — or not, depending on whether the at-home partner can correctly predict the answers of the partner who's "out." All of which leads to the big surprise at the end of each show, when the stunning transformation is revealed and the homeowner announces, "Look what happened While You Were Out!" Conclusion There are many home improvement television programs on the air these days. There are the classic style programs that concentrate on craftsmanship and the tools used for various home improvement projects. And there are the entertaining home improvement shows that showcase the human experience related to home projects. These entertainment programs show possibilities but relatively little know-how detail. Whichever style you prefer, there is plenty out there to choose from. If you still can't find enough there are now entire cable networks dedicated to the how-to market. These channels have plenty of home related programs to choose from. Before tackling the next home improvement project, sitting on the sofa watching TV might actually be a good place to start for education and inspiration! More Home Improvement Programs to Check Out (Descriptions provided by show web sites) American Home www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_hah05 American Home 2005 showcases innovations for the home that are so new they almost haven't happened yet. See the latest products and ideas, from materials to floor plans to appliances. Meet the builders, architects, designers and other experts who are setting the trends in the home industry. Before & After www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_baa Hosted by Pat Simpson, each episode profiles major home remodeling projects from start to finish. Past projects include turning a cramped 1950s concrete block home into a spacious New England summer home; adding a second story to a suburban ranch home from the '70s; and adding a wraparound deck to a '60s split-level. Before & After is all about turning eyesores into eye-openers. Do It Yourself Network TV www.diynet.com Again, for those of you that have cable, this station has a lot of different do-it-yourself projects and improvements for the house. Easily find all the shows that have aired pertaining to your project; you may even see when a particular project will air again. A lot of the show details from materials to individual steps are available online. For a complete list of shows go here: www.diynetwork.com/diy/pac_ctnt/text/0,2019,DIY_14161_16823,00.html DIY to the Rescue www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_dttr Got in over your head with a home improvement project? DIY to the Rescue can help finish the job! This special presentation from one of our sister networks, DIY Do It Yourself Network, brings in a team of experts to help real homeowners finish a problem project in around 48 hours. Fix It Up! www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_fix Do it yourself is the motto here, with a program that covers a wide range of self-help home projects. Topics range from tiling, refinishing projects and deck additions to landscaping and lawn care--and everything in between that today's do-it-yourself homeowner needs to know about. The early episodes are hosted by Pat Simpson and Amanda Rosseter, while newer episodes are hosted by Pat Simpson and Jodi Marks. Houselift http://home.discovery.com/fansites/houselift/houselift.html Houselift is a home remodeling show with a brand-new perspective — the homeowner's. Paul Hochman, the Today Show's gear expert, and his wife Tricia and their two children experience the fun, excitement, terror and tribulations every homeowner faces when they live through a major home construction project. Unvarnished, and with a healthy mix of humor and how-to, Houselift demystifies the home renovation process by putting Paul in the middle of the job. Each show features a key conflict and lots of learning for those considering a foray into this expensive, but ultimately rewarding, territory. Included in the mix are financial advisers, real estate agents, concrete experts and even a marriage counselor, who help Paul and Tricia through the process. Fun, engaging and educational, Houselift is a hit, literally in the making. In a Fix http://home.discovery.com/tuneins/inafix.html We know they mean well, those do-it-yourselfers. But what is that old saying about good intentions? The In A Fix team selects a home repair project that has gone terribly, shockingly wrong — gaping holes in ceilings and gutted kitchens. With a complicit spouse, In a Fix stages a dramatic "intervention" on the family handyman or woman in desperate need of help. During the hour, they not only fix the problem, they up the ante — a small fix becomes a major re-do. Michael Holigan's Your New Home www.michaelholigan.com Michael Holigan’s Your New House, seen on broadcast stations and cable by more than 2 million viewers every week. We promote tips and advice on how to build, buy and remodel the home through our TV show...serve as a source of expert advice and information for consumers on topics relating to: New home construction, The purchase and financing of new and existing homes, The purchase and financing of manufactured homes, Residential remodeling, Home improvement Renovate My Family http://www.fox.com/renovatemyfamily/ Hosted by best-selling author Jay McGraw, RENOVATE MY FAMILY is not just a home-improvement show - it's a life improvement program that visits families who have encountered some challenges along the way. Sell This House www.aetv.com/tv/shows/sell_this_house/ SELL THIS HOUSE™ gets inside the mind of the buyer and the heart of the seller with real life experiences and great advice on how to prepare your house for the market. Each week features homeowners desperate to sell and prospective buyers secretly videotaped as they express their observations upon first seeing the house. Enter a real estate and home decoration expert who recommends changes. In the end, the house is transformed (on a budget) and the buyers are brought back. Will the house sell? For how much? To whom? You'll learn the answers as participants experience the ups and downs of SELL THIS HOUSE™. Surprise by Design http://home.discovery.com/fansites/surprisebydesign/surprisebydesign.html As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. It also takes two — and a few willing friends and family members, if you want to get technical — when you've got a $2,500 budget and just one day to surprise someone with a redecorating or landscape project. That's where our dynamic design team of Rebecca Cole, Robert Verdi and Peter Gurski comes in. Toolbelt Diva http://media.home.discovery.com/fansites/toolbeltdiva/toolbeltdiva.html As the feisty host of Discovery Home Channel's new series Toolbelt Diva, Norma pairs up with female homeowners to tackle a variety of home-improvement projects. Toolbelt Diva proves that any woman can take on just about any home-improvement project, and it also has plenty of information and insight for the man of the house as well. Town Haul http://media.tlc.discovery.com/fansites/townhaul/townhaul.html In Town Haul, Gorder tackles the biggest challenge of her career. She's not just redesigning a living room, family room or bedroom, rather she's remodeling an entire town over the course of several weeks. In an eye-popping television event, she will oversee a team of skilled designers, carpenters and craftspeople as they work alongside townspeople to reimagine, repaint, repair and restore small towns across the United States. Weekend Warriors www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_war Weekend Warriors celebrates the do-it-yourself trend with a cinema-verite look at people planning, doing and completing weekend home-improvement projects. This series follows such do-it-yourselfers as apartment-dwellers, homeowners, couples, singles and families through the stages of a project to its successful (or even unsuccessful) completion. The focus is on the enthusiasm and the experience of the participants as they improve their home on their own.

Slab verses crawl space

Some are built on a slab, and others have crawl spaces. Is one better than the other?

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Q. We are looking at new homes in South Carolina, and we noticed that some are built on a slab, and others have crawl spaces. Is one better than the other?

A. Traditionally, houses in South Carolina have been built on raised foundation walls to keep the structure away from the ground, but with the advent of newer technologies, more and more builders are choosing to build homes with concrete slab foundations. Briefly, a house with a crawl space has a wooden floor built on foundation walls and piers that can be anywhere from about two to six feet off the ground depending on the slope of the lot. In this type of house, the utilities such as plumbing, electrical and HVAC can be run under the floor, and are accessible for repair or renovation. The crawl space has fresh air ventilation, but is closed to insects and animals. This type of construction requires stairs for access. A slab-built house, or patio home, is built directly on a reinforced concrete slab foundation. This slab rests directly on the ground, and the utilities are run under the slab and brought up into the structure wherever needed. The heating and air ducts are routed through the attic in most cases. This type of construction requires no stairs for access. With a house built up off the ground, modest amounts of water entering the crawl space during rainstorms is not usually a problem, because it runs right through or evaporates through the fresh air vents. With a slab house, there is very little tolerance for water draining against the structure, because it will find its way into the house. If you are considering buying a patio home, pay careful attention to the lot drainage. The choice between the two types of construction is largely a matter of personal preference unless someone in your family has difficulty climbing stairs in which case, a slab-built home would be your best choice. Regardless of which type of house you choose to purchase, it would be wise to get a thorough home inspection from the most competent inspector in the area.

One roof or two?

My 1950’s home has recently developed ceiling cracks running lengthwise through all of the rooms.

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Q. My 1950’s home has recently developed ceiling cracks running lengthwise through all of the rooms. Recently, I had a new shingle roof put on, and the roofing contractor told me that I could save a little money by putting the new shingles on top of the old ones. I wonder if this could be contributing to the cracking of my plaster ceilings.

A. The new roof over the old is most likely the reason for the ceiling cracks. Some roofing contractors will put new shingles over old ones because it saves them time and money, but this is no benefit to the home owner. Your house was framed to handle the weight of one shingle roof, but not the weight of two. The extra load on the structure is placing stress on the rafters, braces and ceiling joists, and causing stress cracks in your plaster ceilings. At this point, your best option is to just live with the cracks, because if you patch them without relieving the extra load on the roof, the cracks will just come right back. Next time you are ready for a new roof, insist that the roofer remove all of the old shingles, felt, tar paper and any other materials right down to the plywood or boards and start from scratch. This will not only eliminate the extra weight problem, it will give you a better looking, tighter and longer lasting roof.

How to start a Neighborhood Watch

A neighborhood watch can help police cut down in crime.

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Many people are skeptical when they hear about neighborhood watches. Many think it involves a lot of effort with minimal impact or effect. However, most police departments will inform you otherwise. A neighborhood watch can help police cut down in crime as you are going to notice suspicious, out of place behavior in your neighborhood before they will. An example that is often used is the scenario of the stranger hanging around your neighbor's car. You look out your window and notice a stranger at your neighbors car and know they do not belong to that car. However, when a cop car drives by the stranger casually looks up and waves hello. The officer cannot tell that person does not belong to that car or neighborhood, he/she may wave back and simply drive ahead. Obviously a call from someone in the neighborhood would inform the police of the stranger's suspicious behavior and they can question them. So how does a neighborhood watch work? How do you set one up? How can you and your neighbors reduce crime and help the police in your area?

Why should our neighborhood start a watch?

Still haven't convinced you? Fair enough, lets look into the benefits of a neighborhood watch a bit more. Unfortunately, most neighborhoods don't consider a neighborhood watch until there is already a problem with thefts, burglaries and/or vandalism. Today, many households have two working parents and kids gone at activities so the home is empty a majority of the day making it a target for thieves. A neighborhood watch helps to place other sets of eyes on your home when you are away. Your neighbors get an idea of who belongs there and will more easily recognize something out of the ordinary. The neighborhood watch will also help build a community partnership. Neighborhoods today are more isolated, people do not know their neighbors so it is more difficult to identify normal behavior for a household. Some neighborhoods have taken this a step further and used the watch to help community in the time of an emergency. Recently in Saucier, MS a neighborhood watch group used their ties to make a list of all those staying behind when Hurricane Katrina came ashore. After the storm, members used this list to make sure everyone was accounted for and also used the list to set up aid for the community including food, water, clothing and other necessities (Neighborhood Watch Needs You, National Crime Prevention Council). In addition to building a sense of community, a neighborhood watch can also help keep the community informed. A neighborhood watch sets up a phone tree system so you know if someone has had a problem in your area. Without this system you may not hear about vandalism or some other problem until a much later date or not at all. Finally, a neighborhood watch helps the police in you area do a better job. As in the example in our introduction, neighbors are the ones that can inform police of suspicious behavior that would not be obvious to them. Also, neighborhood watches may help police build a case on crimes. For example, in one neighborhood, there was a vandal who was slashing tires. In most cases this would only have been a "slap on the wrist" with little real consequence to the vandal. However, with the neighborhood watch, they were able to document that 80 tires were slashed in the neighborhood during the same crime spree. This made it much easier for the police to build a case for stronger prosecution of the vandal (Open Letter to Watch Groups in Kent). These are just a few examples of ways a neighborhood watch can help your community.

What does a neighborhood watch involve?

Meetings - The last thing anyone wants is more meetings to attend! With a neighborhood watch there are really only two major meetings that need to be done.

The First Meeting - The first initial meeting with your neighbors is to see who is interested in joining. This is a vital meeting in that it is where everyone learns what is involved and expected of participants. Once people find out how little time is involved, many neighbors will express an interest. At this meeting you will want to cover setting up a map, a phone tree, and electing a captain and co-captain(s). You may also want to distribute information on programs like Operation ID or other crime prevention programs that your community may find beneficial (your police department can help you find materials or you may also look to the organizations listed in ourMore Info on the Web section).

Yearly Social - After a watch is in place, there should be at least one neighborhood social per year. This may be a BBQ, Community Garage Sale, Neighborhood Picnic, or some other type of family friendly, all-inclusive gathering. At these social events, captains and co-captains may easily give quick highlights and goals for the year. This could be done as a speech or flyers handed out at the event. This would also be a good time to check and see of any changes in information for the watch - such as a change in phone number, etc. After a quick recap of watch business the rest of the social is a community building experience. It is a chance for neighbors to get to know one another and put faces with names. It should be fun - not tedious!

National Night Out - National Night Out (NNO) is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. It is an annual event for neighborhoods to participate in to promote safety and awareness in their community. Taking place on August 1st of every year, the identified goals are: "heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; generate support for, and participation in, local anti crime programs; strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back." Again this is organized around some social activity such as BBQ, block party, or flashlight walks, to name a few. A neighborhood watch can register their event with NNO and receive helpful information about how to set up their event. To find out more visit their site at www.nationalnightout.org/nno/.

Captain & Co-Captain - Captains and co-captains are those who help organize records and keep track of the changes in the neighborhood. Captains are the contact point for people to notify of changes such as phone numbers or new residents. Usually captains will organize a welcome for any new residents welcoming them and informing them about the neighborhood watch to see if they would like to participate. And most importantly, captains are informed of any problems in the area. It is assumed the effected party would have notified the police. However, the captain can also track events and report it to their contact with the police department; as in the example above, it was a captain who brought it to the attention of the police that over 80 tires were slashed in one crime spree. Keep in mind the police don't have a database that would track minor crimes like this, thus a neighborhood watch can help collect this useful information. Captain should be by no means be an exhaustive position! Instead, they are helped by co-captains and can have their duties covered by co-captains when gone. Many neighborhoods will assign more than one co-captain to help share responsibility. One example is to have a captain designated as the main police contact and then multiple co-captains for each block or cul-de-sac for neighbors to report to.

Phone Tree - A phone tree is the easiest and fastest way to help notify the neighborhood of important events. Like other phone trees, each person only calls a few people and then the next group calls the next so no one person is calling everyone. After a crime has happened a phone tree may be used to help notify the neighborhood a certain type of crime at a specific location occurred. Today, some may opt for an email instead of a phone call. However, make sure to somehow include all that want to be involved. Some residents may not want to use email and still need a mini phone tree.

Newletter - This is not the quickest way of giving out information but it is effective. Either pamphlets or emailed letters will help give the neighborhood updates of what has been going on the last couple of months. Unless there are major concerns, newsletters may be quarterly or every couple of months. Many times these newsletters can also inform residents of local events or holiday related safety and laws; for example, safety tips and local laws for the use of fireworks on the 4th of July. If working with a police department representative they may already have a newsletter available to which you may tack on neighborhood info before distributing. Newsletters are not required for a watch, but some do find them useful.

Map - The map is a extremely useful tool for the neighborhood watch. A standard map will show the streets involved in the watch, the homes, names of residents, phone numbers, emergency in-state and out-of-state contact numbers and email. This information is always voluntary. However, many residents will find the extra security worth it. Most of us will not know an address of our neighbors, instead we know 'it is three doors down' or 'just around the block'. This map will help get the exact address if the need arises to notify the police and neighbor of a problem. This map may be used in a number of ways. This can be used by a neighbor who sees someone prowling outside a window at night to call the neighbor and the police. If there is smoke from a house, a neighbor can tell the fire department the exact address and notify the resident if they are not at home. Or it might be used with the phone tree to raise the alarm in a neighborhood. One example of this is a vandal just broke the front window of the house but was scared off and got in a car and drove off down the street. You can call the neighbor down the street and see if they saw which way the car turned or can see the license plate. All this will help police track them down. This is a good time to note, that a neighborhood watch is used for information gathering - at no point should neighbors be running out in the street as vigilantes to stop crime. Instead they use the phone tree, map and neighborhood connections to track events and relay information to the police!

Operation ID - Operation ID is a way to encourage citizens to inventory their valuables. Residents mark or engrave valuables with a special number. Usually a driver license is used as this is public information and also identification back to you. If you use your driver license number, then make sure to put your state initials before the number and DL after so the number cannot be changed and will help police identify out of state items. NEVER use your social security number! Valuables may be marked with your identification number with invisible marker or engraved. Keep an inventory list of all items marked and store in a secure location such as a lockbox or fire proof (locked!) safe. Once you have inventoried items you may get some decals from the police for your windows and items. If your police department offers these decals it is usually a limited number. You may have to purchase more decals for all your items. Many neighborhood watches purchase an engraver for the neighborhood and then check it out to neighbors. They also then get decals for all participants so the neighborhood is covered and burglars are deterred. **If you sell an item with your ID, then cross it out with one line and initial it. Also make sure to note it on a bill of sale for the buyer. Keep a copy for your records.

Going the Extra Mile - Make an effort to look out for each other on a daily basis. Help each other better protect their homes and the neighborhood by encouraging neighborhood participation in activities.

  • Get all neighbors to turn on porch lights at night.
  • Help older neighbors or others who may need help with the safety of their home. For example, help trim high bushes in front of their door/window or change light bulbs in high outdoor lights.
  • Have clean up parties to help clear out vacant lots, playgrounds/parks or abandoned cars. Help clean graffiti right away.Work together to beautify the neighborhood, let would be criminals know you care about where you live!
  • Recognize captains, co-captains and other participants who go that extra mile to help others!
  • Use the neighborhood watch to sponsor safety events. For example, invite fire fighters to a meeting to help better prepare residents against fire.

How do we start a neighborhood watch?

So how do you start a neighborhood watch? First, contact your local police. Not all departments have facilitators to help set up a neighborhood watch, but they will have resources available. Even if they do not have an official representative, ask the department if an officer may be able to stop by the meeting, many times something like this can be arranged in advance. Next, set up a meeting with your neighbors to give out information and see who is interested in participating. This should be a meeting place accessible to all, maybe a school or church in the neighborhood. As mentioned before, this is the vital meeting where you explain to others what is involved and expected for participation. You will find that many neighbors will express an interest, especially after they find that it does not require a great deal of time or effort. At the first meeting get as much information as possible as it is harder to get the information later. Nominate a captain and co-captain, hand out a form for residents to submit information for the community phone tree and map. Find out if residents are interested in meetings every few months or general meetings about fire safety or if they want to stick with one annual meeting per year. Once the first meeting is over and the information is gathered, the captain and co-captains can compile the phone tree and maps. These will then be given to every participant in the neighborhood. And that was the major bulk of the work. Now it is up to residents to keep information up to date and work with their neighbors on community projects or socials. That's it! 

There are many benefits to a neighborhood watch program. Start the dialogue with your neighbors and see if you can start one in your community. It is a great way to build community, cut down on crime and rethink what a "neighborhood" is all about!

Preventive Maintenance Tips for your Home-Part 3

This month we have completed handy tips for every 6 months.

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Welcome back to Rocky’s Corner! Last month we discussed Part 2 of an 8 part series of Preventive Maintenance Tips for your Home that included every month and every 3 months suggestions.

This month we have completed handy tips for every 6 months. Every 6 Months

SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS: Change batteries and check to make sure they are operating properly. Check with your local building department to see if newer codes recommend adding more detectors than were required when your home was built Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector if you don’t currently have any.

BASEMENT AND FOUNDATION: Check for cracks and moisture and make any necessary repairs.

TOILET: Check for leaks in water feed, tank bottom and repair or replace the toilet if necessary. Consider changing older models for newer.

INTERIOR CAULKING AND GROUT: Inspect caulking and grout around tubs, showers, and sinks; clean and replace if deteriorating.

PIPES: Check your pipes for rust or white lime deposits that may indicate a leak is starting; replace if necessary. Check for leaking around the outside hose bibs. Install insulation around outdoor water pipes to protect from freezing.

WATER HEATER: If you do not routinely flush a quart of water from the tank four times a year, then every six months you should turn off the power source and drain it completely until it’s clear of sediment. Also inspect flue assembly (gas heater); check for leaks and corrosion. A leak usually means the bottom of the storage tank has rusted through. You’ll probably benefit from replacing it with a more energy efficient model.

CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEMS: At the beginning and end of each cooling season, vacuum out the unit and lubricate the motor. If the unit is not cooling properly, contact a technician to check the pressure level of the refrigerant.

GUTTERS AND DOWNSPOUTS: Clear/install/repair gutters and downspouts and make sure the runoff is directed away from your home so it can’t erode the soil around the foundation or run into your basement or crawl space. Install gutter accessories to divert water, channel underground drain lines into existing yard drainage or storm sewers.

NATURAL STONE TILES AND SOLID COUNTERTOPS: Natural stone needs regular maintenance every six months by sealing with an impregnating liquid silicon stone sealer to help repel both water and oil based stains more effectively and be much easier to clean with proper cleaning solutions and methods.

INSPECT YOUR ROOF: Check for warping, aging, moss, and cracking making sure that shingles, shakes or tiles are sound and repair as needed. Inspect the flashing around chimneys, skylights and vents. Seal cracks or openings where water could penetrate. Consider a roof replacement if you notice considerable wear or damage.

SIDING: Inspect siding (especially on the south and storm sides of the house) for evidence of deterioration, including cracks, splintering, decay, and insect damage; clean, treat and repair as needed. Brick and stone: check joints between wood and masonry Waterproof, repair or repaint. Wood: look for lifting or peeling paint, splitting wood or areas where the wood grain is separating . This is evidence that water is getting into the siding. Stucco: a chalking residue that rubs off on your hand is evidence of oxidation, a deterioration of paint or color coat that reduces stucco’s insulation value. If the stucco is cracked, this allows water to get in around windows and doors. Trim: look for peeling paint on the fascia boards, window sills and sashes that could allow water in to form mildew and fungus on the interior of your home behind curtains, blinds and window coverings.

LANDSCAPING: Cut back any trees or shrubs that are touching the exterior. Prune deciduous and flowering shrubs regularly to promote healthy growth, control plant size and shape, and increase the number of flowers and fruit. Check with a local gardening service or your county extension agent for information about appropriate measure in your area for fertilizing, thatching, aerating and reseeding lawn, and controlling disease and insects in all your landscaping.

DOORS AND WINDOWS: Clean exterior of upper-story windows twice a year; clean and lubricate sliding-glass-door tracks and window tracks. Lubricate door hinges and locks.

WEATHER-STRIPPING: Check the weather-stripping around all doors and windows and replace if necessary to reduce drafts and the loss of heated and cooled air. Join me next month for Part 4 of our series on Preventive Maintenance Tips for your Home. We will be discussing Maintenance Tips for once a year. Visit us at www.freminshomeimprovement.com

Home Security

Keeping your family and possessions safe.

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According to the FBI, burglaries occur every 15.4 seconds in the United States (Crime Doctor). Home security is important as not only is our home one of our biggest investments but having good home security provides peace of mind about protecting our family and possessions. As the popular show on the Discovery Channel, It Takes a Thief, illustrates, many of us take our security for granted. Many times the families on the show believe their current security is all they need. There is a belief that burglaries happen to "someone else." Or, if one is robbed, it is just the result of "chance" and there is little that can be done about it. This show provides an entertaining wakeup call about home security. The threat to our inner sanctum and lifetime of possessions is very real. This article will take a look at the ways you can protect your home. We should note that one of the most common answers is a security system. A standard security system comes with a control panel (with panic button), 3-4 sensor zones, a siren and 24 hour monitoring. These systems can be hardwired (usually when the home is being constructed) or wireless. Some of these systems are so advanced you can even monitor your home when on vacation through the internet! The cost and amount of "bells and whistles" you get will depend on the size of your home, neighborhood, entry points and other varying factors. For a real idea of a professional security system that is right for you, check with professionals in your area. For this article we will be concentrating on some of the common sense and easy to add options you can do to protect your home. Some professional security providers are listed in the links that follow the article but will play a relatively small role in the article itself. Before we begin to look at what measures we can take, let us look at some statistics from the FBI about home burglary:

  • Burglary is the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or a theft. A person can be convicted of burglary even if nothing was actually stolen.
  • A burglary occurs approximately every 15 seconds in the United States.
  • On average, a burglary results in a dollar loss of about $1,600.
  • About 30 percent of all burglaries are classified as "unlawful entry," meaning the burglar was able to gain entry without using force — often through an unlocked door or window.
  • Nearly 66 percent of all burglaries are residential, and of those, 62 percent occur during the daytime. Most burglaries occur between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., when no one is likely to be at home.
  • Renters are more likely to be the victims of property crime than homeowners.
  • Only 13 percent of reported burglaries are solved, or "cleared," by the police.
  • Only about 15 percent of property stolen in burglaries is recovered by the police.
  • Nearly 85 percent of all burglaries occur in large metropolitan areas.
  • Almost half of the nation's reported burglaries occur in the South: 45 percent, as opposed to the Northeast's 11, the Midwest's 20 and the West's 24.
  • The highest percentage of burglaries occur during the summer months of July and August, when many people are away from their homes on vacation, or have left windows open for ventilation.
  • Arrest records reported to the FBI indicate that approximately 70 percent of all burglary arrestees are white and 86 percent are male.
  • About 30 percent of private homes have security systems. Homes without security systems are two to three times more likely to be broken into.

Summarized by It Takes a Thief Site (more recent summary at FBI site http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_04/documents/CIUS2004.pdf)

Now that we have your attention, let's look at some ways you can improve your home security; let's start by examining the exterior of the home.

Part I: The Exterior

There is a beautiful home sitting at the end of a long drive. There is only one front light on. All appears quiet and unoccupied. Large bushes cover the view of the side of the home from the road. The neighbor's house behind is equally dark and barely viewed between the fence, bushes and trees. I think you are getting the idea. This example house almost provides a written invitation to would be burglars. The exterior of your home can tell a potential thief a lot. Many times, just by observing from the outside, they can see if the home is occupied, find weak entry points and determine if they can use hidden nooks to work unnoticed. Sometimes our desire for privacy creates little pockets like this for the thief to work. There are many things you can do to the exterior of your home to make it more foreboding and hard to crack for would be burglars. Make certain the exterior of your home is well lit and consider monitoring it by video or surveillance. One of the most vulnerable homes, is the dark ones. An easy and inexpensive deterrent is to add motion sensor lights to your driveway and doors. Keep all entrances well lit, both front and back. You may want to keep the back on a sensor light, which is a fine alternative to having a light on all night. As lighting should be considered for any exit from your home, this includes the garage. Make sure your garage light switch is on the inside of the house. You never want to have to enter a dark garage to turn a light on! After you have the lighting arranged you may also want to consider extra video surveillance. This is especially the case if you have a large property, very private property or are gone often. Make sure the central recording device is locked up so thieves cannot take it with them! Many of the surveillance systems these days will let you view the outside of your home easily so you may also use them to see who is at the door when you are at home. You may also choose to have sound notification of someone approaching your home. A wireless annunciator notifies you whenever someone comes within up to 50 feet of your driveway or entranceway. This additional light and surveillance will help keep the perimeter of your home safer.

Make sure your home is not helpful to the burglar either as many times our conveniences can also be theirs. Unsecured tools such as ladders can help burglars break into your home! Your garage should be secure and tools locked. This means deadbolts on any garage doorways. The garage is a favorite entry point so you should consider keeping your car locked with the alarm on, even when in the garage. And if you park your car outside of your garage, never leave the garage door opener in the car! Again, our desire for privacy may also create hidden nooks for burglars to hide and work. Make sure to trim plants so they do not completely cover windows and doors. In fact you may even want to consider planting really thorny and prickly plants next to windows as they can act as an additional deterrent. Any signs/plaques you put on your home should also be considered. It is a great idea to have reflective numbers on your home for easy spotting during an emergency. However, do not have your name displayed as it is helpful for a burglar to look you up in the directory and call your house to see if anyone is home. Also, don't give burglars an idea of what is in your home. Whenever you make a large purchase don't advertise it to the neighborhood. For example if you buy a new computer don't leave the empty boxes on the curbside for disposal. Instead break the boxes down to keep what was inside a mystery. You should also use window treatments or keep expensive items out of view from the window. You don't want to have curtains closed all the time as this only gives the impression of the home being unoccupied (and not to mention downright dreary). But curtain sheers and strategic placement of objects in the room can minimize what people can see from the outside. Finally, never leave keys in hidden places around the house as this is just an easy invitation to burglars. Either leave a spare key with a neighbor or purchase a combination lock that holds your key safely for you. Combination keyless entry locks are also becoming more popular; if you forget your keys a lot, forget to lock the door, or have so many family members/roommates going in and out, this may be a great solution. These are just a few ways to help prevent easy access to your home.

So now Mr. Burglar has dodged your motion cameras and surveillance and brought his own nifty tools - what can you do? You should have strong doors and windows that will continue to work against the burglar. Make sure your exterior doors are solid-core. If you have glass doors they should be double paned with heavy duty laminate. If you do not have a double pane, a security grill will help. Locks are important, you should have locks on all the windows and double locks on all entry doors. Deadbolts (with removable key for fire) are a must. You can also have a chain lock added if you don't have a peep hole. However, these are not fullproof and a peephole is a much better investment. You may also use wooden dowels in glass sliding doors and windows that have broken locks. This should only be a temporary fix - replace these locks or install locks as soon as your able. Also, always keep your doors locked, even when you are home. Do not keep the back patio or balcony doors unlocked and open. This is a favorite entry point for would be thieves! Make sure your windows are secure and replace any broken windows as soon as possible. You should have security bars placed over basement windows as these are easily kicked in. Also place bars over removable air conditioning units setting outside of your windows as these can be weak points as well. Another possible cheap help for your windows is window film. It makes windows more shatter resistant and can prevent easy "window shopping" by burglars. Finally, when purchasing a new home or renting a new place replace the locks or request that the locks are replaced. It is not that the previous owners are bad people. You just can't be sure if they ever lost a key, lent it to someone and never got it back, etc. In these ways you can make all your entry points, both doors and windows, difficult to open. These are just some of the many ways you can help protect your home. Installing exterior lights and surveillance will help deter burglars from approaching. Making sure you do not leave helpful tools, hiding places, personal information, easy view of possessions or spare keys lying around will make life for the burglar more difficult. And if you make sure all your doors and window are in good repair and locked he may just give up and walk further down the street. But what happens if they do get in your home? There are many more security measures you can take for the interior of your home as well.

Part II: The Interior

Once a burglar has entered your home they usually have the privacy to search for and take what they want. They will still want to be in and out of your house as quick as possible, so the more secure your valuables are, the more likely they will leave them and move on. Remember, they have breached into the inner sanctum of your home and everything you leave out and accessible is theirs for the taking! What follows are some more ways to deter burglars and prevent them from walking off with all of your possessions. There various interior alarm systems that may still help to scare the burglar off. A wireless or hardwired alarm system can be a great way to alert a monitor if a doorway is breached or a window opened. Many systems can also detect if someone over a certain weight is moving about the home when the system is on. Turning on the alarm system is the greatest problem for most users. But once it becomes a habit the security it provides is priceless. To invest in a home alarm system in this way can be very beneficial but should not be taken lightly as these are often extended contracts. If you do decide on contracting with a security company, make sure to do your research. Some items you should know are: how long they have been around; are they licensed, bonded and insured; do they do background checks on their employees; where do they monitor the house from - is it local; is the equipment leased or purchased outright; what is the warranty and coverage; what are the monthly monitoring costs and are they at a fixed rate? Finally, dogs are a "natural alarm" whose gruff bark can scare off some would be thieves, but they are not full proof. Many dogs become nervous in the event of a break in and may not respond the way they would if you were at home. Guard dog training is usually available in your area, but these programs stress, and we must stress, that the training should be a major commitment - your dog needs to listen to you and only be aggressive on command! If they get past the security system then you want to be sure your possessions are safe. Keeping your possessions safe can be easily done with the use of secured safes and lock boxes. Homes should have a safe or you should have a safety deposit box to keep important documents safe. Any safe should be bolted down to the floor and have a fire resistant rating equivalent to the heat of a fire expected for a home your size (Examples of UL (Underwriters Laboratories) ratings are: Class C will keep paper documents safe up to 1 hour up to 1700°F, Class B will keep them safe up to 2 hours at 1850°F and Class A will keep them safe up to 4 hours at 2000°F). Do make certain your safe is bolted to the structure of your home. Otherwise burglars will just take the whole thing with them to break into later. What should the safe contain? Keep all important documents such as birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates, legal papers, receipts for large purchases, loans, investment documents, deeds and titles, to name a few. You should also keep unused credit cards locked away. This should include statement information so a thief does not try to open a new account with a stolen statement. Finally, any jewelry, watches or small expensive items should be locked away. Now that you have everything in the safe do not forget to lock it! Surprisingly many people who own safes will leave them open for easy access - this rather defeats the purpose if your home is burglarized! Finally consider a small wall safe for your car and spare house keys. If you leave your spare keys lying around the house, don't be supervised if the burglar takes your car as well! Keep anything that would be difficult or impossible to replace locked up.

Finally, give some consideration as to what to do if, after your best efforts, possessions are taken from your home. Large items such as stereos and TVs can be marked by you for identification purposes. However, never engrave you SSN in expensive items. Instead, engrave these possessions with your Driver's Licence Number or consider marking them with an invisible pen. In the event of a burglary (or fire) you should have a clear idea of what was lost. Keep a compiled list of your possessions in a lock box or fire proof safe. It will make the list even stronger if you supplement it with photos, videos and serial numbers of the possessions. Any family heirlooms should be appraised, photographed and included on this list. Make sure the insurance company is aware of everything on this list so you are covered for the full worth of your loss. The FDIC recommends updating a detailed list of possessions in each room once every 6 months. Understand that once items are stolen, it may not be possible for the police to recover them, even if the burglars are caught. So make every effort to keep these items locked up! Once a burglar is inside your home you want to make sure they do not have an easy time taking away your possessions. Having a monitored alarm system of some type will help deter the burglars from staying. Dogs might even help convince intruders to leave. Make sure your possessions are locked up. This is everything from jewelry and car keys to important documents. If items are taken make sure you have a detailed list of what you owned so insurance can cover the financial lost. Also this will give you a better chance of tracking down the stolen items. Marking large items may help with this as well. Overall, make sure you secure what you cannot replace!

Conclusion

Everyone thinks burglary will not happen to them, or it is only determined by chance or one's neighborhood. But that is not the case and taking time to review your home's security is a good investment. There are many great ways you can protect your home and property from burglars. Tactics from installing exterior lights and surveillance to making sure you do not leave helpful tools, hiding places, etc. will make life for the burglar more difficult. Keep your doors and windows locked and alarm system armed. If they do get in your home make sure you have your valuables locked in a safe or lock box. Keep a list of your valuables and mark them if you can so you may have a better chance of getting items returned. Below are additional links for information on the web about home security and general home safety.

Do not wait for it to happen, take some time today to take a few small steps to better home security. Quick checklist of items to check around the home.

Emergency Preparedness:

Update your emergency contact lists. Numbers change! Make sure to have an out of state contact set up in case of natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. - Review emergency plans with everyone in your home. Make sure everyone knows what to do if there is a fire, break in, earthquake, major storm or other emergency. If you do not have emergency plans make it your New Year's resolution to make them! - Examine your emergency kits. Make sure first aid products are still good and stocked. Check extra stores of food and water for replacement. If you do not have emergency kits, make a point to create or buy them.

Household Papers/Records: 
Update your protected files. You'll be doing taxes anyway, so it is a good time to review which documents you are keeping and which need to be shredded. Here are some suggested documents to keep and how long to keept them: 
- Keep in Safe Deposit Box/Fireproof Safe: Birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce legal papers, adoption papers, citizenship records, and other documents that are government or court related. A copy of a will, although your attorney will keep the original. Investment and business papers, government bonds, deeds, titles and copyrights to name a few more. General rule is, "Put it in if you can't replace it or if it would be costly or troublesome to replace." 
- Taxes: IRS can audit up to 6 years back. However, you can get rid of pay stubs if you have your W2. Cancelled checks you will want to keep if they are related to anything you claimed on your tax return. - Medical Bills: Keep at least 3 years. - Household Inventory: You should have a comprehensive list for each room and what of importance is in there. This will help you claim losses in event of burglary or fire. The details of this list should be shared with your insurance carrier to make sure of coverage. It is recommended that you review this list once every 6 months. - Deposit, ATM, Credit Card and Debit Card Receipts: Save them until the transaction appears on your statement and you've verified that the information is accurate. Then they may be shredded. - Credit Card Statements: If there are not purchases related to taxes you may shred them once every year. However, if you have larger purchases on the card you may want to keep hold of these older statements. Special Note: Credit Card Agreements should be kept as long as the card is active! - Loan Agreements: Keep as long as the loan is active. - Documentation of Stocks, Bonds nd Other Investments: Keep while you own the investment and then 7 years after that. Household Health & Safety: - Determine if homes built at the same time or are in the same condition as yours are susceptible to lead, radon, asbestos, mold or carbon monoxide problems. If so consider it a New Year's resolution to get your home tested. - Review your medications and vitamins/supplements. Properly dispose of any expired items. Many of these items have such a long shelf life that we often forget to throw them away when we should! Also, make sure they are properly stored and out of reach of children. House Maintenance: - Change the batteries in your fire alarm and CO alarms. Test both. (In reality they should be tested once a month!) If you don't have a CO alarm, now is the time to get one; there should be one in a central location outside each sleeping area. - Check all outdoor lighting. Get bulbs replaced - we all can forget about the garage sidelight. - If you are in a snow area you should be checking your dryer, furnace, stove and fireplaces to make sure any vents are clear of snow. - Check inspection dates. Do you know the last time your furnace, water heater, fireplace or other major appliance was inspected? - Take inventory of any major appliances that are not working properly or at all. It is time to look ahead at the year and budget for their repair or take them to the dump. For example, that extra freezer that doesn't work - it's a safety hazard! Get it fixed or look at paying for it to be properly disposed. - Review your garage for hazardous materials such as paints, oils and gasoline. Make sure these items are properly stored. If they are old or the cans are damaged look into getting them disposed of properly. A lot of times items we used for spring, summer and fall projects get forgotten in the winter months. If they weren't put away properly they can become potential hazards. - Check for leaky faucets and get them fixed if needed. You don't want a small leak to become a BIG problem. Once the spring thaw begins make sure to check outside faucets for leaks as well. - Unclog gutters - if the weather permits. Otherwise add this to a list of spring cleaning to be done as soon as possible. - Clean off the roof (or get someone to do it) if weather permits. Another item to add to spring cleaning if it cannot be done.