Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

~ Holiday Safety For The Entire Family ~

In Holiday Safety on December 24, 2012 at 11:05 am

With the holidays fast approaching we sometimes tend to forget those curious, furry, four-legged family members of ours, well except for when buying them a present.

If you are an animal lover like I am, then you know the holiday season is a time to remember our furry friends too.

Those specialty plants we get as gifts or buy ourselves to make our homes look festive for the holiday season can be beautiful, but can also be toxic for our pets. And if you are a pet owner, then you know just how curious dogs and cats can be, especially when introduced to new things being brought into your home.

Mistletoe and Holly are considered to be moderately to severely toxic plants for dogs and cats as well as lilies and daffodils that are extremely harmful, and in some cases fatal if ingested.

Many people have always associated the Poinsettia plant to be extremely toxic, but this is not entirely true. The sap of Poinsettias is considered to be mildly toxic or irritating, and will probably cause nausea or vomiting, but not death. It is always better to err on the side of caution and just keep pets away from this plant.

Let’s not forget the Christmas tree. These are a candy land for our pets. With the dangling ornaments that they can knock off and break cutting their mouths or even ingesting the broken shards. Let’s not forget the tinsel that can also be ingested and get twisted in their intestines. The tree needles contain fir tree oils, which can be mildly toxic to your pets too.

Even more potentially toxic is the water, which nourishes our fresh-cut trees. The standing water can harbor bacteria, molds, or other agents (such as fertilizers) that can cause your pet to become extremely sick with only a few sips.

Always keep in mind that more than one toxic substance can be involved therefore seeking an Animal Poison Control Center consultation and pursuing treatment with a veterinarian are vitally important.

It is also very important to remember that all of the cautions I have just mentioned pertain to small children as well. These plants are toxic to them also.

Holiday safety should always be in the forefront of your mind.  I’ve compiled a holiday safety checklist to get you started and keep you and your family safe each and every holiday season. I know most of the list is common sense, but look it over and at least use it as a reminder.

  • Always buy a fresh-cut healthy tree. Check that the needles do not fall off when tugged on or do not break easily if bent in half.
  • When you bring the tree home, cut a few inches off the bottom of the trunk at an angle so the tree will absorb more water.
  • Make sure your Christmas tree is secure and not able to fall over if accidently tugged on by a child or pet.
  • Keep your tree well watered so it does not dry out and become a fire hazard.
  • Never place your tree too close to a fireplace or heat vent. This will also cause it to dry out and cause a possible fire.
  • Never place your tree in front of a doorway or any exit source in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms have fresh batteries.
  • Use UL listed lighting made for indoor use when decorating your tree.
  • Make sure to inspect for any broken, loose, missing or damaged sockets of the light set.
  • Never shorten or splice any light set.
  • Never put lit candles in windows, too close to Christmas trees or within the reach of small children.
  • Keep all toxic plants (Poinsettias, Mistletoe, Holly) out of reach from small children and pets.

Since the holiday season is the time of joy and giving, I’d like to make one important suggestion; by giving even a small donation to The Leader Dogs For The Blind (www.leaderdog.org), Michigan Humane Society (www.michiganhumane.org) or Detroit Dog Rescue (www.detroitdogrescue.com) (just to name a few) will help these organizations and the animals they help save, have a better life and a brighter future and will make your heart and holiday a little warmer too!

From my home to yours ~ Have a safe and happy holiday!


Santa & Animals


Buying a New Furnace / Cleaning Faucets / Smelly Crawl Space / Gable Ridge Vents

In Crawl Space, HVAC, Plumbing, Ridge Vents on December 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm


I currently have a 1978 standard efficiency furnace that was put in my house. Everyone I talk to about replacing my furnace with a new high-efficiency, 2-stage multi speed model tells me I am going to save 30 to 40-percent on my heating bills. Those telling me this typically have a vested interest, as they want my business. Is it reasonable to expect some serious savings that will make it worthwhile over time?


Over time and especially with rising gas prices, I think, I’d go for it.

I don’t like giving percentages of savings and don’t always believe them, but 25 to 30-percent is not an unlikely savings. The only minor caveat is there is an adjustment period in learning to live with the air, which is not as hot coming out of the registers. Five to ten-percent of people (especially elderly) find the adjustment difficult.


We have a crawl space and there is a musty, damp odor coming from it. There are vents, which we open in the spring and close during the winter months. Is there a product or chemical we can spray or put down in the crawl to help eliminate this odor?


If you do not have a 6-mil plastic vapor barrier on the dirt floor of the crawlspace, it should be installed. Overlap each piece and tape it in place. The plastic should go up the perimeter walls about six inches and be secured in place with batten strips or mastic.

That odor may be coming from leaking. Correct the cause of the leaking. If anything is rotting, it needs to be replaced. The leak may not be coming from the ground. When you are in the crawlspace, look up and under any areas where there is plumbing.


When you inspected my house you told the purchaser to seal the gable vents, why?


Your house has a ridge vent. That’s the vent that runs along the very peak of a roof. When you have a ridge vent you must have an equal number or greater amount of soffit ventilation. Soffit vents are the vents that are installed beneath the overhangs and provide some of the actual air intake of air movement through the attic. They should have baffles protecting them in the attic so insulation does not obstruct the air movement.

All other attic vents, such as can, turbines and gable vents, need to be removed when you have ridge vents. If you don’t, the thermal dynamics of the attic ventilation is voided, which could lead to higher heating and cooling costs, ice dams and possibly mold.

By the way, gable vents are the vents at the sides of your house way up near the roof. You can seal the gable vents by nailing a piece of plywood over them from inside the attic.


We have well water that builds up a residue in our faucets. Is there something that can be done about this other than taking the faucet off and soaking it in vinegar and water?


Obviously installing an in-line filter or softener and filtering system will work, but if your problem is removing the faucet to soak them in vinegar periodically you can accomplish that a lot easier. Have you tried unscrewing and soaking just the aerators at the end of most kitchen and some bathroom faucets. Another trick (which I do occasionally) is to put the vinegar in a zip lock bag and place the showerhead into the bag. Tape the bag in place and leave it for a couple of hours. Remove the tape, turn on the water, and it flows perfectly.

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Relining a Chimney / Closing Steam Heat Valves / Removing Textured Coatings / Fixing Crumbling Plaster

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2012 at 11:53 am


Our fireplace is brick with a tile liner that is cracked. What is the best type of replacement liner and damper to install? We have estimates using stainless steel. Is a top-mounted damper ok or is metal or plastic the best?


Stainless steel liners are the most common type of re-liners, but is one needed?

Has a chimney sweep run a camera down your entire chimney to inspect it? If not, repairing a few cracks or even replacing the top one or two flues may be all you need.

While most flues are overbuilt, remember a liner reduces the opening size and “can” affect the size of the fire you build.

Chimney top dampers are great. If a plastic damper even exists, I would not install one. There are two types of top flue mounted dampers. Make sure the one you install has a screen to keep out squirrels, raccoons, etc.


We have steam heat and wondered if it would be cost effective to turn off radiators in rooms not in use or will the lack of heat affect the surrounding rooms?


The first question is how old is your house? If it’s older with little or no insulation in the exterior walls, you might have a problem.

I spoke with Carl from C. Darge Custom Consultants (248-540-8414). Carl is an expert with hot water and steam systems. He said you could do it in milder weather, but if the rooms are adjacent to a bathroom or where pipes run within a wall, those pipes could freeze. Carl said you must keep the valves open entirely. By partially opening or closing the valves, the system will be very noisy.

Carl suggested that to save money, you could install adjustable air vents. They are designed to slow down the amount of steam. Put the vent at the lowest setting, you’ll get some heat but not a lot.


I had new windows installed, and recently noticed crumbling plaster at the top of the bathroom window. I never had a problem before this year. Can you give me an idea as to what the cause is?


Here are a few suggestions. The caulking around the exterior and interior of the window should be in good condition. If not, re-caulk. Do you use a bathroom exhaust fan? It should vent through the roof to the exterior, not into the attic.

There could be a leak from above the window. That leak may be coming from a window above the bathroom window, window flashing, loose siding, or damaged mortar. It could be originating at a damaged gable vent and running down the exterior wall to your window.

If everything seems in good order, possibly the window was improperly installed.


I have some of those rolled on “stucco-like” walls and ceilings in my house and want to get rid of them. How can I do it?


Obviously you hate the stucco-look, many people do. Here is one way of smoothing them out. Removing textured paint will be hard and messy but here are a few alternatives:

  1. Sanding and more sanding with an electric orbital sander is one method. Wear goggles and a respirator mask. Doesn’t that sound like oodles of fun?
  2. If the paint was latex rather than an oil-based, you can score the paint surface with a brick. Then, rent a wallpaper steamer to loosen the paint enough to scrape it off.
  3. If the textured surface is not extremely deep, “Plaster in a Roll” is excellent. It’s made by Flexi-Wall Systems. It’s a thick layer that is applied to the wall over the stucco-like surface.
  4. Finally, the William Zinsser & Company makes a product called “Texture-Off”, which is specifically made for removing stucco-like finishes. Don’t you wish I told you that earlier before you worked up such a sweat?

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