Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Managing Mold in Your Home

It’s a problem man has battled since the dawn of time—controlling mold. It lurks in the corners and can cause major damage and nasty health issues. As long as moisture and oxygen are present, mold can grow indoors or out on virtually any organic substance, including wood, paper, carpet, insulation and food. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, especially if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed.

It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled by keeping moisture in check. Moisture control is key—mold cannot grow without it.

Left untreated, mold gradually destroys the material on which it is growing. Because molds produce allergens, irritants and toxins, they have the potential to cause a variety of health problems and can exacerbate existing conditions, such as asthma.

If mold is a problem in your home, clean up the mold and get rid of the excess water or moisture. If an area becomes water damaged, it is important to dry that space and any damaged items within 24–48 hours to prevent mold growth. Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water to prevent recurrence. Wash mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water and dry completely. Absorbent materials (such as ceiling tiles and carpet) that become moldy may have to be replaced.

For more information on how to clean up residential mold problems and how to prevent mold growth, download the Environmental Protection Agency’s free publication, A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home at www.epa.gov/mold/pdfs/moldguide.pdf.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Simple Stain-Removing Solutions

Try as you might to prevent them, spills, drips and splatters in your house are inevitable. Whether you, your family or your guests are the culprits, stains happen. Most, if not all, are treatable, especially if you act quickly and use the right stain-removing technique.

If there’s an accident on your carpet or a rug, start by scooping up any solids and soaking up any unabsorbed liquids. Then, blot the stain with a white cloth or paper towel. You should work from the outside in so you don’t spread the spill, and dab at it instead of rubbing or pressing hard.

You also can try spot cleaning with a soapy water mix. Dilute a ¼ teaspoon of clear hand-dishwashing soap with 1 cup of lukewarm water. Spray the solution on the stain, and mist the area with clean water or blot with a wet towel. Then blot the area with a dry towel. Repeat this process until you get as much residue out as possible.

Follow these specific instructions for cleaning up the more stubborn stains and sticky spots on your floors:

·         Red wine: Begin with the same three steps—blot, apply soapy water and rinse. Then, dribble very hot water from a sponge onto the spill. Continue to blot with a clean towel, and repeat until the carpet no longer shows any red.
·         Soft drinks and coffee: Begin with the same three steps—blot, apply soapy water and rinse. Then dab on hydrogen peroxide. Wait one hour before repeating the process. Hydrogen peroxide bleaches a stain without breaking down carpet dyes. Use a 3 percent solution, which can be found at a drugstore, and apply at full strength.
·         Candle wax and chewing gum: These are easiest to remove when hot or cold. For the cold method, harden the spot by rubbing it with an ice cube inside a plastic bag. Then, carefully scrape off the residue with a dull knife or a plastic card, such as an expired credit card. For the hot method, apply paper towels over the waxy area, and then use a clothes iron on low heat to soak up the wax. Replace the paper towels until all the wax is removed. Use a hair dryer to heat gum. Then with a plastic bag over your fingers, pull the goo off.

So the next time your carpeting endures a nasty spill, rest assured that it doesn’t have to become a permanent stain. With these simple tips, you can keep your carpets and rugs looking great for years to come.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Chimney Safety

Broken or cracked chimneys can let heat, smoke and toxic gasses, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Your home could even catch fire. Chimney damage is often obvious, but sometimes it can be hidden. Use the following checklist, provided by Ready Virginia!, to help ensure that you can enjoy your fireplace and avoid problems—or even a disaster:

·         Check to see if bricks have fallen or the chimney is leaning.
·         Look for shiny areas on your exterior metal chimney pipe. This could mean the chimney has shifted—during the recent East Coast earthquake, for instance.
·         Look for cracks at joints where the chimney connects to the firebox, at the roofline and in the attic.
·         Check for debris that may have fallen into the fireplace.
·         Use a screwdriver to check the mortar between the bricks or stones. If it crumbles when you pick at it, the chimney may be a hazard and probably needs work.
·         When in doubt, consult a licensed engineer or contractor. For the name of an inspector, call your insurance or mortgage company.

Remember, disasters can happen even in the best of homes. That’s why every home should be equipped with carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Here are a few tips:

·         Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in sleeping areas and on every level of your home and away from air vents. Interconnected smoke alarms are best, because if one sounds, they all sound.
·         Test smoke alarms monthly, and change alkaline batteries at least once a year. Use a familiar date, such as your birthday or when you change your clocks, as a reminder.
·         Prepare and practice a fire escape route with everyone in your home, including children.

For more information, visit www.usfa.dhs.gov/smokealarms.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Have a Safe Halloween

Halloween is a kid’s delight. It’s a blast to dress up in costumes, go trick-or-treating, attend parties and, most of all, eat candy.

At the same time, Halloween can be scary for parents. Costumes can be dangerous, too much candy can be sickening and walking around at night can be risky.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer these tips (in anagram form) to make sure your little ghouls and goblins have a safe Halloween:

S – Swords, knives and similar costume accessories should be short, soft and flexible.
A – Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Children should walk in groups or with a trusted adult.
F – Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see trick-or-treaters.
E – Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before they’re eaten.

H – Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help see and help others see you.
A – Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it when done to avoid skin irritation.
L – Look both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.
L – Lower the risk for serious eye injury by avoiding decorative contact lenses.
O – Only walk on sidewalks or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.
W – Wear well-fitting masks, costumes and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips and falls.
E – Eat only factory-wrapped candy. Avoid eating homemade treats unless you know the cook.
E – Enter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult.
N – Never walk near lit candles or other open flames. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

If you’re hosting a party or expecting trick-or-treaters:

• Provide healthy treats, such as individual packs of raisins, trail mix or pretzels. Offer fruits, vegetables and cheeses to party guests.
• Use party games and trick-or-treating as an opportunity for kids to get their daily dose of 60 minutes of physical activity.
• Be sure walking areas and stairs are well-lit and free of obstacles that could cause falls.
• Keep candle-lit jack-o-lanterns and other open flames away from doorsteps, walkways, landings and curtains. Place them on sturdy tables, keep them out of reach of pets and small children and never leave them unattended.
• Drive safely and watch out for trick-or-treaters.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How the Association Protects Your Money

Homeowners all over the country have read alarming news accounts of management companies and board members embezzling funds from community associations—the homeowners’ money. Our association follows a few hard-and-fast rules to protect your money. They include:
We keep cash transactions to a minimum.
When a cash transaction is absolutely necessary, we make sure that more than one person handles it.
We never make out a check to cash, and we don’t make out a check that’s payable to the bank unless it is to pay a bank obligation, like a loan or mortgage.
We never make a payment to a vendor in cash. Instead, we always write a check.
We separate responsibilities.
The person who writes the check is someone other than the person who approves the expenditure.
The person responsible for recording transactions and balancing and reconciling accounts is someone other than the person who approves the expenditure or the one who writes the checks.
We don’t co-mingle funds, such as operating accounts and reserves.

We take additional safeguards such as:
We only accept checks made payable to the association. We never accept a check made out to a board member.
We deposit incoming checks daily, and we have a lockbox account at the bank for collecting assessments.
We require two signatures on check deposits, particularly for large amounts. We never use a stamp as a signature on a check.
We keep blank checks securely locked up at all times. All association checks are numbered and each outgoing check is listed on the check register. If a check is missing, we report it to the bank immediately.
Check deposits and payments are reconciled with bank statements frequently.
The bank is notified immediately when authorization for writing checks changes, i.e., when a board member term expires or a new association employee is hired.
We make sure the association has adequate insurance coverage for embezzlement or fraud.
When a new staff member is hired or someone new in the association is authorized to handle finances, we check each person’s background and credentials thoroughly.