How to Create the Perfect, Four-Season Outdoor Living Space

(BPT) – Creating an outdoor living space will give you an extra “room” to enjoy in all types of weather, even as the temperatures drop. You can start small with an inexpensive patio set and charcoal grill on a new deck, go all out with a fully installed kitchen, fireplace and living room, or something in between. It depends on your budget and how you plan to use the space.

Here are some ideas for must-have elements in your perfect outdoor living space that will allow you to enjoy your back yard in style with family and friends all year long.

Deck

It’s the foundation of your outdoor space. Using real wood for your deck is the key to creating a natural, beautiful outdoor living space. One great option is Western Red Cedar. It’s resistant to rot, decay and insects so it lasts a long time with minimum maintenance. It’s also durable, yet surprisingly lightweight, which is one of the reasons DIYers and building professionals find it so easy to work with. It’s also a green choice. Woods such as cedar leave the smallest carbon footprint compared to any other building material.

Fire

There’s nothing cozier on a crisp night than curling up in front of the fire. Adding a fire element to your outdoor room creates the same sort of ambiance. Imagine gazing up at the sky on a dark, starry night while sitting in front of the fire and you’ve got the idea. You’ll find a wide variety to choose from, including decorative metal fire pits or bowls; chimeneas, which are earthenware or stone outdoor fireplaces; or full-blown, permanent fireplaces like you might find inside the house. Whatever you choose, the crackling fire will draw people and create a focal point for conversation and reflection. Added bonus: It will provide a heat source for chilly nights.

Outdoor Kitchen

You can go big, creating a second full kitchen alfresco with a high-end gas grill, a wood-burning pizza oven, a fridge, a sink, storage for dishes and utensils, and a countertop for prep, or you can go small, with a simple grill. Either way, it’s essential to be able to cook outside so you won’t be stuck in your home’s kitchen preparing dinner while your family and friends chat on the deck.

Furniture

A patio table and comfortable chairs are a must, as are some Adirondack or other sturdy, comfy chairs positioned around your fire source. But beyond that, think about how you’ll use the space. Does a chaise or two for lounging with a book and a cold beverage make sense? What about an outdoor sofa and chairs to create more of a living room-type feel? Whatever you choose, comfort, durability in all types of weather, and the size (not too big or too small) are prime considerations.

Shelter

In addition to the standard umbrella for your patio table, creating shelter for your outdoor space lets you enjoy it in all types of weather. The sky is the limit on your choices: a simple wood and fabric canopy to shade your seating area, a more structured gazebo complete with mosquito netting, a decorative wooden pergola, or an outdoor sunroom or solarium that attaches to your home’s exterior wall. Get some ideas for great DIY projects, be it a pergola, a Tiki bar, a cover to protect your grill (and the grillmaster) from the elements, or for less experienced DIYers, a dining table, benches and chairs, by downloading free DIY project plans at http://www.realcedar.com.

Landscaping

The final touch is the yard beyond your deck. Extend your outdoor space with a patio, create a walking path with stone pavers, or add shrubs, plants and flowers that will cycle and change with the seasons, giving your space a fresh look as the months go by.

For more information about creating your perfect outdoor living space or to download DIY plans, visit http://www.realcedar.com.

5 Steps To Building and Designing a Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Home

(BPT) – Sponsored Ad Content by Clayton. For the 21st-century home, building with environmental sustainability in mind is a must. A sustainable, energy-efficient home makes the most effective use of building materials and natural energy. Many home builders look for new ways to ensure energy-efficiency measures are incorporated into their home features and construction methods. This not only saves money in the long run for the homeowner, but also reduces the impact the home has on the environment. Are you looking to build a sustainable home? Here are some options to consider:

Smart Thermostats

For many builders, smart thermostats are the standard offer in new homes and are included in the floor plan to create energy savings over time. This smart technology can sync up with the homeowner’s mobile device to show real-time settings, goals and energy usage stats. Smart thermostats can be programmed to have set temperatures throughout the day to save energy when you’re not at home. For example, Clayton, one of the leading builders of prefabricated and site-built homes, has started including ecobee3 lite smart thermostats in all newly built prefabricated homes. ecobee is the inventor of the world’s first Wi-Fi smart thermostat and a leader in the smart home space. Smart thermostats are designed to improve comfort and efficiency, while saving homeowners on monthly utility costs and reducing their footprint on the environment.

Low-Emission Windows

Low-emission (Low-e) windows are designed with two glass panes to help block UV rays from entering the home during the day. By blocking UV rays from entering the home’s interior, the windows can help regulate the indoor temperature. Without this technology, the home’s HVAC system ends up fighting against the heat of the sun, especially during the hot summer months. Low-­e windows allow less heat to enter or leave your home through your windows and reduce the light’s ability to wash out colors in home fabrics. Low-e windows can help reduce UV-­induced fading of indoor furniture by as much as 75 percent, as reported by Energy.gov.

Green Building Practices

Green building practices, such as recycling and dust control, can divert several tons of landfill waste every year which has a positive impact on the environment. Efficient home construction methods that result in less construction waste help the future homebuyer save money by lowering the overall cost to construct the home. Sustainability is one of the core values of Clayton, where the company has adopted internationally recognized ISO 14001 green building standards for its home building facilities. This home builder closely monitors its waste usage and in 2017, the company was able to divert 17,476 tons of landfill waste using these green practices.

Drought-Intolerant Landscapes

It’s not just the building processes and materials that make a home sustainable. The overall landscape also makes an impact. Try methods like drip irrigation to cut down on wasteful watering. A drip irrigation system slowly drips water directly onto your lawn and garden through pipes that run along your yard.

Eco-Friendly Habits

Environmental sustainability is a lifestyle – there are many easy habits you can incorporate into your daily routine that won’t cost a dime. Simple changes like unplugging your electronics when they’re not in use, turning your thermostat down (or even replacing with a smart thermostat) and turning off the water while you brush your teeth can go a long way. Adopting habits like these is the next step to having a sustainable, energy efficient home, while keeping more money in your pocket to spend on yourself!

When you buy a home that was built with sustainability in mind, you’ll save energy while helping to protect the environment.

These eco-friendly methods will help you create a happy, healthy home. For more tips, visit claytonhomes.com.

Integrate Accessories For Added Luxury

(BPT) – Accessories bring a sense of purpose into a space and, with thoughtful selection, can transform a room into an elevated experience. When used creatively and in unexpected ways, they add the perfect finishing touch to a space and can transform the overall aesthetic and design. From hardware to purposefully placed décor, integrate accessories artfully and functionally to achieve beauty and balance for an even more luxurious space.

A Balanced Perspective

Assess the space and identify underutilized areas of the room – opportunities to bring a design to life. Choose accessories featuring a variance of shapes, sizes, colors and textures to establish visual and spatial equilibrium. Boldly patterned pillows add dimension among solid tones, while lush flower arrangements effortlessly fill negative space, striking an unexpected balance of comfort and intrigue.

Sophisticated Hardware

Complete a luxurious design with sophisticated fixtures that serve as anchoring details, thoughtfully integrated for aesthetics and utility. These necessary pieces add opulence to a room while providing unexpected functionality. Reimagine the use of hardware by adding robe hooks to a walk-in closet for belts or scarves, or to hang clothes. Incorporate an element of surprise by adorning a kitchen space with a towel bar from the Litze Bath Collection by Brizo, which features textured knurling detail that highlights innovative engineering and artistry.

Harmonizing Accents

Find the perfect blend of tones and textures by sourcing contrasting, but complementary accessories to finalize a design. Contrast an industrial coffee table with an acacia wooden bowl, or furnish a sleek, modern shelf with coarsely textured relics. As inspiration strikes, pursue the unexpected. Fill the space, maintaining a balance of polished and personal, soft and avant-garde, and strong yet fluid elements, adding just the right level of contradiction to create the perfect harmony.

An Elevated Update

Once a design is complete, statement pieces can have surprising transformative power when updating a space. Select high-end pieces for major impact, such as a bold area rug or an oversized piece of original art to instantly augment a design. Update an existing piece with new drawer knobs for a fresh look, integrating smaller elements that reflect the personality of the space in new ways. From a one-of-a-kind sculpture to a tasteful timepiece, always keep in mind that small-scale updates have the unexpected potential to make a large-scale impression.

5 Steps To Protect Your Home From Rodents This Fall

(BPT) – Once they’re inside, rats and other rodents can do a lot of harm to your home. This includes damage to electrical wiring, metal or plastic pipes and insulation found in walls and attics. On top of structural damage, the critters aren’t good for the people who live in your home, either: Some species of mice and rats can transmit diseases like hantavirus through their urine and droppings.

Between the potential health issues and possible damage to your home, the last thing you want to hear is the scurrying of little rodent feet in your walls or attic. Luckily, there are steps you can take that will help keep those critters out. The experts at Terminix have some tips that can help you protect your home from rodents.

Block Possible Points Of Entry

Be aware of any holes or cracks in the exterior of your home. You may think a small hole is too narrow for a rat to squeeze through, but a rat may think differently – and may even gnaw the hole wider! A full-grown rat can enter your home through a hole about the size of a quarter, and a mouse only needs an opening measuring one-fourth of an inch. Properly seal any openings you find to help prevent rodents from wriggling their way into your house.

Trim Back Trees and Move Debris Away From Your Home

Tree limbs that touch your house can provide an easy access point for rodents, almost like a ladder or bridge. Some species of rats even nest in trees. Do some careful pruning to clear away any branches close to or touching your house. You should also keep any stacks of firewood or piles of debris away from your home, as they can attract rodents and hide burrow entrances.

Protect Food From Hungry Rodents

Your house may be filled with food, but you don’t have to make it easy for rodents to find that out. Avoid attracting rodents that can eat and contaminate your food by storing it properly. Keep unpackaged food – even pet food – in airtight containers so rats won’t be able to smell it, and avoid leaving unsealed food sitting out.

Properly Dispose Of Waste and Compost

An open trash can presents a feast for hungry rodents. Keep outdoor trash cans properly closed and away from your home. If you have a compost pile in your yard, also try to move it as far away from the exterior of your house as possible, to avoid letting rodents looking for a free meal make the trip into your walls, attic or even chimney.

Call In the Experts

Between work, family and other tasks around the house, it can be hard for busy homeowners to set aside time to proactively monitor their homes for invading rodents. The good news is that you don’t have to protect your home or deal with an infestation alone. Pest control professionals, such as Terminix’s trained technicians, can provide an inspection to determine the best way to set up a strong defense and get rid of any unwelcome house guests that have already moved in.

3 Questions To Ask When Looking For Your New HVAC Unit

(BPT) – If you subscribe to the belief that your home is your castle, then you naturally expect to be comfortable in that castle, right? Whether it’s the middle of winter or the dog days of summer, your home’s HVAC system plays a vital role in supporting this comfort, so if you’re in the market for a new system, here are three questions you should ask before purchasing your new system.

Is the Unit the Right Size For Your Home?

In the world of HVAC units, size matters and bigger isn’t always better. A unit that is too big will needlessly waste energy in your home while a unit that is too small will burn out trying to keep up. An HVAC system’s power is measured in tons – not a unit of weight in this case but power.

To determine the proper tonnage for your home, your HVAC technician will need to review most, if not all, of the rooms in your home – especially the attic and/or basement. A common rule of thumb for HVAC systems is that one ton is necessary for every 400 square feet in the home. However, your needs may vary based on your home’s location, its insulation and other factors, so don’t be afraid to ask questions as your technician reviews your home.

What Is the Proper SEER Rating For Your Home?

When it comes to HVAC systems, the SEER rating may be the most important measurement you’re not aware of.

Ken Ely, director of residential product management, Ducted Systems, Johnson Controls agrees. “Many homeowners have never heard of a SEER rating associated with their HVAC unit,” he says. “However, a unit’s SEER rating demonstrates its energy efficiency and how easily the system can control the temperature in your home. A higher SEER rating is good for the environment and your overall energy budget.”

SEER is short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and the rating is a good indicator of your unit’s energy efficiency. For example, the 19 SEER efficiency of the new two-stage Luxaire Acclimate HVAC unit can reduce your system’s energy usage by up to 47 percent when compared to older 10 SEER units, meaning you’ll start saving energy and utility costs immediately after installation.

All units with SEER ratings of 14 or higher earn an energy efficiency classification, so look for the SEER rating when shopping for a new HVAC unit and remember the higher the rating, the more you’ll save in the long run.

What Maintenance Will Be Involved With My Unit?

Like all other aspects of your home, adding a new HVAC unit means you’ll be responsible for some maintenance to support its use. The maintenance required for your new unit should be outlined in the owner’s manual, but you can also ask your HVAC contractor if you have any questions not answered in the guide. Confirm the warranty details of your new HVAC system and be sure to register the warranty with the manufacturer if necessary. This will ensure your new system is supported for years to come.

Following a regular maintenance schedule, such as keeping the area around your unit clean, is a good rule to follow. The extra effort will keep your system running optimally, and neglecting routine maintenance can void your system’s warranty. Keep a record of all maintenance performed to reference in case any repairs are needed.

Finding Your Next HVAC System

Whether you want to enjoy the last days of this season or prepare for the next, finding the right HVAC system for your home is one decision you shouldn’t delay. Start your search by finding answers to the questions above and you’ll be on your way to the perfect HVAC solution for your property.

Choosing the Right Wood For Your Deck

(BPT) – The deck is the perfect spot for get-togethers and events. However, if yours needs a facelift or a complete re-do, now is the perfect time of year to complete a new outdoor living space customized to fit your needs. A new wood deck can add value to your home, but be sure to choose the right wood products to build it. Thus, the question becomes: What type of wood do you use? When do you use ground-contact and above-ground, pressure-treated wood?

This article can help you determine what type of wood you need to use and where. Follow this guide from Viance and you’ll be on your way to building the deck of your dreams.

Ground-Contact Wood

As its name implies, ground-contact wood often forms the foundation of your project and may include the support posts placed in or on the ground, in concrete or in fresh water. Ground-contact should also be used whenever your wood pieces will be installed less than 6 inches off the ground, such as a ground level deck.

Ground contact wood earns this designation because it has been specifically treated to protect against fungal decay and termite attack at and below the ground’s surface. For your deck project, ground-contact, preservative-treated wood should be used for ledger boards, stair stringers and support posts. Other landscaping projects, like garden boxes, landscape walls and anything else that may be built in or on the ground, should use ground-contact, preservative-treated wood.

Above-Ground Wood

Above-ground wood is the other major designation, and this is the wood type you will use to build most of your deck. You can use above-ground treated wood for locations that are easy to maintain and repair, quick to dry and where ample air flow around the wood is possible. On most decks, this will be your deck boards, guardrails, balusters, joists and beams. Above-ground wood uses fewer preservative chemicals than ground-contact wood, and in newer preservative systems like Ecolife, it provides added benefits that can repel water, minimize cracking and keep boards straighter. Above-ground wood is also the ideal choice for many outdoor projects including arbors, trellises, lattice, decorative posts, trim boards and fence pickets.

If the wood will be more than 6 inches from the ground, above-ground wood is the ideal, and most economical type of treated wood to use.

Finding the Right Wood For Your Deck Today

No matter the dimensions of your deck, chances are you’ll use a combination of ground-contact and above-ground, pressure-treated wood. Applying the guide above can help you determine which wood type you need for each phase of your project, but questions could still arise. You can find answers at treatedwood.com and learn more about EcoLife and Preserve pressure-treated wood, sold in lumberyards, at 84 Lumber and under the Severe Weather brand.

New Home? 6 Steps For Preventing Pests From Moving In

(BPT) – Moving into a new home is chaotic. You’ve got decorating to do, a neighborhood to explore, and a house to keep in tiptop shape. The last thing you need in the midst of all that commotion is the added headache of household pests like ants, cockroaches or rodents. With a few tips from Terminix, you can keep your move running smoothly and ensure no unexpected pests move in with you.

Look For Collecting Water

Stagnant or standing water attracts a variety of pests, from nuisance wildlife to mosquitoes. It doesn’t take a lot of water, either – mosquitoes can lay as many as 100 eggs in the cap of a bottle of water. Try to reduce standing water in sources such as pots and tires, and be sure to change out your bird bath at least once a week.

Inspect For Openings

Check the exterior of your new house for structural openings under doors, near windows and around utility penetrations. Any openings you find are essentially an open door to rodents and arthropods, such as spiders and millipedes. Reduce the number of pests entering your home by sealing any improper openings.

Be Wary Of Trees and Shrubbery

That flowering bush might look beautiful beside your home, but it could harbor countless pests. Note any tree limbs overhanging your roof line and any shrubbery or mulch close to the foundation of your home. These features play host to many different types of pests, and having them touch your house only makes it easier for pests to enter.

Check For Moisture Issues

Some pests, like termites, cockroaches and carpenter ants, love moisture and are more likely to be found in damp areas of your house. Check your new home for any moisture issues. This could mean anything from a leaky roof to plumbing and seals that should be fixed.

Look For Insufficient Screening In Key Areas

While you’re checking for moisture issues, you can also look for insufficient screening around plumbing or drains. Inspect the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room to ensure all openings are properly covered. Otherwise, you could find your kitchen playing host to pests like silverfish, spiders, ants or cockroaches.

Call In the Professionals

Even the most diligent homeowners may still find themselves with a pest problem too big to tackle alone. Pest control professionals such as Terminix’s trained technicians can protect you and your new home from any unwelcome guests.

3 Reasons Fall Is a Great Time For Roofing

(BPT) – Cool breezes and falling leaves are around the corner, and for many parts of the country those telltale signs of fall signal the best possible season for roofing.

So what makes fall a great time for roof repairs or a full replacement?

1. Perfect Weather

The same perfectly cool weather that makes fall a favorite time of year for camping and outdoor activities also makes it a great time for roofing – and not just because it’s more comfortable for the roofer. Asphalt shingles, the most popular form of roofing in the U.S., have an optimum temperature for installation. Keep in mind, the perfect roofing weather of fall can mean busy contractors.

2. Spring and Summer Storms

The warmth and humidity of the spring and summer months are notorious for spawning severe thunderstorms. Hail can fall any time of the year, but is most common in the spring and summer months, reaching a peak in June in several regions. High winds from spring storms can also uproot trees and snap limbs, both of which can fall on the roof.

“We always recommend homeowners hire a professional to examine their roofs, both for their safety, and to protect their roof,” said Stephen McNally, vice president of sales and marketing for TAMKO Building Products, a major manufacturer of asphalt shingles.

3. Winter Is Coming

Depending on the area of the country, winter can bring subzero temperatures and up to 10 feet of snow. Freeze-thaw cycles, ice dams and damp weather require the roof to be in top shape to defend against these threats during the winter months. Winter can be a difficult time to roof, so leaks that show up during the winter months can take longer to fix.

“Weather is always a concern – as a contractor, I would never tear more off a roof than what could be re-shingled in one day,” said Rick Taylor, a longtime roofing contractor, now working as an industry sales trainer known as Rick the Roofer. “And if there was more than a 50 percent chance of rain that day, I waited to start the project.”

With the optimal temperatures and weather – and the need to prepare for winter – homeowners will find fall to be a great time for roofing. With a skilled labor shortage already pushing project start dates out weeks or months, homeowners should act quickly to schedule their roof project if they want it completed before winter.

Bathroom Customization: Stylish Options For Styling Needs

(BPT) – The kitchen may be the heart of your home, but don’t underestimate the importance of your bathrooms. If you think about it, bathrooms are one of the most frequented spaces in the home. It’s where you go to rejuvenate and get ready for the day. It’s the place where you take the time to make yourself look and feel your best. A thoughtfully designed bathroom can start your day on a positive note and end it in a calm, relaxing and stress-free manner.

With this in mind, good design becomes essential. A well-designed bathroom has many elements that come together in a cohesive fashion. The space should not only reflect your personal aesthetic, but also adapt to your needs by streamlining your day-to-day routine. Finding a balance between fashion and function might seem challenging, but when you look to customization that incorporates technology, you’ll quickly see that creating a bathroom of your dreams is easily within reach.

Modular Configurations

Whether you have a standard bathroom layout or a tricky design with boxed-in constraints, modular configurations are a simple solution. When you choose configurable products from companies like Robern, you’ll be able to select from a wide array of sizes, shapes and options to fit your construction needs. That means you can design an amazing bathroom experience in the tiny powder room outside the den as well as the large master bathroom suite. Thoughtful design and complete customization can help you maximize any potentially awkward space.

Storage and Organization

Even the most exquisite bathroom can become a source of frustration if the counters are cluttered or styling tools are hard to reach. Configurable solutions – like modular vanities and multiple medicine cabinets creatively ganged – let you design a storage solution that fits your lifestyle. Robern engineers put cutting-edge technology into each product to simplify the bathroom styling process. For example, vanities feature electronic outlets for modern styling tools, strategic lighting for easy all-day use and magnetic strips for simplified storage.

Strategic Lighting

Lighting is a fundamental part of bathroom design and highly influential to enhance your routine. While lighting can perfectly illuminate the bathroom, it doesn’t necessarily mean it does a good job of illuminating the face. Top lighting – common in bathroom design – casts shadows on the face, which is bad for makeup application, shaving and other personal hygiene tasks. Consider lighted mirrors from Robern, designed to strike the face from at least two directions, providing even illumination and minimal shadows. No matter what illumination you choose, keep in mind that lighting from all sides with adjustable features will increase functionality.

Fixtures and Faucets

There are a multitude of choices that allow you to create a personalized and custom bathroom experience. For the shower, consider a variety of showerheads, raindomes, wands and ceiling shower tiles that elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary. Wall-hung toilets can be a subtle interior design statement that not only adds a cosmopolitan flair but also makes cleaning a breeze. For faucets, gooseneck or low-spout faucet designs are currently trending. To instantly boost the faucet luxury factor, plumbing brands such as KALLISTA offer an array of handles that can be selected with decorative elements including semi-precious stones and marble or onyx inserts.

Custom Flooring

The bathroom floor is often overlooked as an opportunity to inject your own personal style with custom elements. Prefer warm and cozy? Minimalist and modern? Whatever vision you have in mind for your bathroom design, tile is always on trend due to its high performing functionality and variety of colors, patterns and textures. ANN SACKS offers an abundance of choices, from custom colors that can be created on demand to faux finishes that look nearly identical to the real deal (think porcelain tile that looks like wood). Add heated elements during installation to further enhance your bathroom experience.

With smart bathroom design, fashion and function can blend together for the ultimate in customization. To learn more, visit www.robern.com.

4 Ways To Prep Your Home For Winter

(BPT) – When you start feeling those first hints of winter, the instinct to get ready kicks in. You may dig out your car’s snow brush, blanket, shovel and winter survival kit and place them in the trunk of your car. The winter coats and boots come out of storage, and you may pick up some extra mittens at the store.

We do these things to protect ourselves from the cold when we’re out and about. But what do you do to protect your house against the hazards of winter? If you don’t take time for maintenance and winterization now, you can end up paying for it later, whether it’s in the form of higher energy bills, frozen pipes or fixing a broken furnace.

Here are four problems that can hit home during the winter and what you can do to ward them off.

Sky-High Energy Bills:

Do your electric bills rise during the wintertime? Heating your home accounts for about half of your home’s energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Combat the cold by sealing off any cracks or gaps with caulk and inspect entrances for worn or broken weatherstripping. Schedule a furnace inspection tuneup with an HVAC contractor and consider installing a smarter thermostat. Learning thermostats, such as Nest, can remember your favorite temperatures, turning itself down when you leave for work, as well as returning to your favorite temp at the end of the day.

Water Leaks:

We take our pipes for granted, but we don’t always anticipate what can go wrong when we’re not home. According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage accounts for half of all property damage claims. Add winter’s freezing temperatures to the mix, and you can end up with a big problem if your home has a power outage or your furnace malfunctions.

For extra peace of mind, there’s now a leak and flood protection system you can purchase that shuts off your water main’s supply when it detects leaks – and sends an alert right to your smart device. LeakSmart installs directly to your home’s main water supply, and wireless sensors placed around the house can detect a leak or temperature changes and shut down the whole house water supply within five seconds. And when the LeakSmart Hub is powered by a battery back-up, the system will still work if the power and internet go out, so you don’t have to worry about coming home to water damage.

The system can work on its own or be integrated with smart home systems.

If you’re interested in learning more about how this smart device can protect your home, visit LeakSmart.com.

Power Outages:

When a winter storm hits, the ice and wind can break power lines and interrupt the supply of electricity to our homes. It’s not uncommon for some outages to last for days, which is why it’s always smart to be prepared.

Before winter hits, make certain your generator or other backup power source has ample fuel and is in good working order. Keep some basic supplies at the ready, so you can keep your family comfortable. Make sure you have extra blankets, stocking caps, batteries and fully charged power banks for your mobile phones. It’s also good to have a few gallons of fresh water and some cans of ready-to-eat chili and stew. If you have a camp stove, keep it in an easy-to-reach place, along with a fuel supply.

Ice Dams:

Another thing to watch for in the winter are pools of water forming on your roof. These can be caused by ridges of snow and ice, and eventually cause leaks to the interior of your home. Ice dams can also lead to the formation of large, pointy icicles that hang from the gutters, which can fall and injure people.

Luckily, a little work upfront can go a long way toward preventing ice dams and the damage they can cause. First, make sure the gutters and downspouts are clear of leaves and other yard debris, so the snowmelt has a place to go. Next, poke your head into the crawlspace of your attic and see if the insulation layer is still thick enough to keep the heat from escaping through the roof. While you’re up there, look for gaps and leaks. Finally, this is a good time to invest in a simple snow rake, so you can easily remove wet, heavy snow from your roof before the dams can start forming.

Now that you know the most common winter hazards that can hit home, you can take the steps to protect your investment and keep your family comfortable and safe.