Ladder Safety / Cleaning Slate Grout / Seasonal Home Odors / Beware of Contractor Scams

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2012 at 11:30 am

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Ladder Safety

 The U.S. Consumer Safety Commission states that about 165,000 Americans require medical treatment for injuries related to ladders every year and that number is escalating. Each year over 300 people are killed using a ladder and ninety seven percent of these accidents happen within the home.

Here are five-points of ladder safety:

1.    Choose the right ladder for the job:

  • Step or extension ladder.
  • The ladder can only hold so much weight. Remember to add the weight of tools and material to your weight. So check the load rating.
  • Don’t overreach or use the top two steps of the ladder or top three rungs of an extension.
  • Do not use an aluminum ladder when working on or near electricity.

2.    Inspect the ladder:

  • Make sure the rungs are not bent r cracked.
  • Check the slip resistant pads, ropes and pulleys.
  • Make sure the rung locks are working.
  • Did the spreaders on the stepladder lock?

3.    Set the ladder properly:

  • The ladder should lean at a 75-degree angle, which means one foot for every four feet.

4.    Secure the ladder.

5.    Climb and work safely:

  • Obviously use common sense and safe work practices and you won’t be one of those ladder statistics next year.



I just read your column in the Birmingham Eccentric. I have a grey/brick colored slate entryway and hallway (you have seen this slate in many houses built in the 1950’s) that has blackened grout. I have used ammonia and water, vinegar and water etc. to try to clean it with no improvement. Do you have any suggestions for cleaning this slate?


Try some grout cleaners that are available at Home Depot, Lowes or Tile stores, they should work. If not, it is because of all the sealers, which have built up over time. Here is a home remedy I’ve used successfully:

  • Wearing rubber gloves and protective eyewear, apply varnish remover and lacquer thinner. Allow it to remain on the slate floor for a few hours and then scrub it off.
  • Rinse well.
  • If you are still floored, apply a mixture of one-part, 18-percent muriatic acid to four parts water. Test this in an inconspicuous area before applying to the entire floor.
  • It is very important to rinse the floor thoroughly and wear rubber gloves, long-sleeved shirt and protective eyewear.
  • Once clean and dry, apply a grout sealer periodically.

I hope this wipes your slate clean.


I have a problem that I hope you can help me solve. I have a mobile home I use as a year-round cottage. Once the weather gets cold and the place is closed up, there seems to be some odors. The furnace and ductwork have been cleaned but still get the odors.


Have someone check beneath your mobile home. You may have debris, rot, mold, etc. Make sure the insulation is not wet, moldy or hanging down. Make sure there isn’t loose or damaged ductwork and all duct joints are sealed. You should check and clean out exhaust fans as well as their vent lines.

Finally, there is a possibility the odor may be originating from dirt or a rodent. Clean behind and under all furniture and appliances. Don’t forget to clean the coils behind and/or under your refrigerator.

 Beware of Contractor Scams

 Need a contractor? Beware of scams.

The majority of home repair and improvement contractors are legitimate. Yes, they make mistakes, but what separates them from the unethical ones is that they stand by their work.

Nowadays, scams are prevalent especially in the home repair and improvement field.

Be wary of anyone knocking on your door saying they are in the neighborhood and will give you a discount or claim they notice you need (fill in scam here) i.e. trees trimmed, roof repair, driveway sealed etc. Always get at least three estimates. Ask for and check references. You want a copy of their license and insurance. Check with local building authorities as well as the Better Business Bureau for complaints.

Finally, never pay up front, period. Contracts require a deposit but before you pay a penny, do your homework to make sure they can do theirs.



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