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Prepare Your Home For The Holidays

from Brodbeck Porter Insurance Agency

Nov 10, 2014

1. Clean the microwave. Appliances take a beating during this holiday, but there's still time to make a few pre-holiday adjustments. Take out the microwave's rotating tray and scrub it or pop it into the dishwasher. Wipe down the microwave's interior with a soft cloth and a little soapy water. Make sure its air vents are clear of dust and grease. (If the microwave is an over-the-range model and provides general kitchen ventilation, be especially thorough cleaning its vent surfaces of greasy dust.) If you don't have spray degreaser on hand, use a soft cloth moistened with ammoniated glass cleaner.

2. Don't clean the oven. The self-clean cycle is so stressful on the appliance that it could cause it to fail, right before you need it most. Give a quick cleaning around the top burner elements and leave the rest be. Save the big cleanup until leftovers are safety nestled in the fridge.

3. Inspect the refrigerator. It's liable to be opened and closed more times on this one day than it is in a couple of weeks of normal use. Check for the following problems:

* Tighten screws on any loose door handles.

* Fix loose or misaligned door gaskets. Take a nut driver or socket and wrench, loosen all hex head gasket screws, reposition the gasket using a putty knife to shove it into position and retighten. Consider installing a new gasket after the holidays.

* Clear blocked freezer vents. Reposition food in the freezer compartment to clear area around vents.

* Clear cold air vents. Reposition food in fresh food compartment to allow cold air from freezer to move more freely. Gain critically needed space by putting all drinks on ice in a cooler.

* Replace burned out lights with an appliance bulb, typically a clear 40-watt bulb sized for appliance use--a $3 item at hardware stores and home centers. If the fresh food compartment is still dark after its replacement, that usually indicates a failed door switch.

4. Prepare vacuum cleaners. Empty canisters or replace bags on these appliances and position them in a hall closet or other location for rapid deployment.

5. Clean drip coffeemakers. If you haven't recently checked the drip opening (and the area around it), you may be unpleasantly surprised. Unplug the coffeemaker and turn it upside down. If the drip opening looks like it's covered in asphalt, clean it with a soft cloth and a solution of warm water and dish detergent. It may take several tries to get the crud off.

6. Inspect the dishwasher. Check the strainer/drain area in the bottom of the wash tub (it's located under the spray arm). Remove food debris and wipe off detergent residue. Remove utensils and any bits of plastic or glass that you find in the bottom of the dishwasher tub. Wipe detergent residue, mold and slime off the door gasket and around the rim of the door, as well as the latch arm that locks the door.

7. Check the oven temperature. If you don't have an oven thermometer to check the appliance's temperature, this is the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a more versatile test instrument: a battery-powered infrared thermometer. The Heat Seeker from General Tools is a point and shoot diagnostic tool. Its laser points right to the surface you want to measure. After you're done analyzing the range, you can use it for checking heating/cooling equipment, and for any number of repairs around the house, such as whether the dryer is getting sufficiently warm. It's versatile and packs a diagnostic punch with -4 to 605¼ F capability. That's a lot of range for a $66 test tool.

If need be, adjust the range's oven temperature using the instructions in the owner's manual or using a repair manual for the appliance. Sometime's it's nothing more complicated than adjusting the temperature dial so it points correctly.

8. Sharpen knives. Tuning up kitchen knives is easy, so don't settle for hacking the bird when you can carve it like a pro.

The traditional method calls for laying the knife's long axis at 90¼ to the long axis of the sharpening stone and then moving down the stone's length with a gently curving arc. Hold the knife so it's about 22¼ to the stone's surface. To read more, click here.

While you're at it, you can tighten loose wooden knife handles by tapping in the center of their rivet using a center punch struck with a ball-peen hammer. The method spreads the rivet slightly and tightens the handle. To read more, click here.

9. Tune up cabinets. A few minutes with a screwdriver is all it takes to whip loose parts into shape. Tighten loose cabinet hinges. Tighten the screws that mount to the door and to the cabinet wall. While you're at it, tighten loose drawer and door pulls and drawer slides. If kitchen drawers are over-stuffed and liable to jam in the middle of the cooking frenzy, now's the time to take out some of the clutter.

10. Take care of the toilet. Not to get too graphic here, but toilets see a tougher workout than any other fixture in the house, especially when guests pull up a seat. Now's the time to take care of poor flushing action or a toilet that flushes by itself by replacing the flapper valve or the entire flush mechanism. If the toilet rocks slightly, try tightening its mounting bolts. If you lift the bolt caps and find severely corroded fasteners (don't be surprised) leave well enough alone and let it go until after the holidays. For more on tuning up toilets, click here.

11. Replace burned out light bulbs. Pay close attention to lights that serve the front entrance and walkway that leads to the front door or other busy entrances.

12. Make your home slip- and fall-proof. Fix loose treads on exterior steps, loose deck boards or loose pavers on front walkways. Take care of all other tripping/falling hazards while you're at it, like using double-sided tape to stick down slippery rugs. Tighten the mounting screws on loose handrails.Buy de-icer to clear walkways and the driveway.

13. Bring in firewood. Stack it and let it dry for a few days before lighting that cheerful holiday blaze. Test run gas fireplaces before the big day, especially if they haven't been used since last winter. Split kindling for the holiday fire safely. Hold the kindling in place using a scrap of wood with a roofing nail driven through its end. Jab the nail into the kindling you're splitting to hold it in place and to keep your hand safely away from the hatchet or axe.

14. Child-proof your home. Make all child-safety preparations in advance, such as covering electrical outlets, moving lamps and vases away from table edges and making provisions to block stairways to prevent hazardous falls.

15. Final Safety Checklist:

* Change smoke detector/CO detector batteries.

* Keep jumper cables on hand, especially if you're expecting a big crowd. Always seems somebody's got a bad battery, and it's usually the car that will block everybody in the driveway.

* Double-check your first aid kit. At the least you should have burn cream, ice packs and bandages to deal with kitchen-related cuts.

* Keep a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen.

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