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Potential Home Hazards That All Homeowners Should Know About

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Image via Tinker Air Force Base

You move into a new house, and everything looks good. You have nice hardwood floors, and the quartz countertops you’ve always coveted, but did you know that there could be hazards hiding in your beautiful home? Here are 10 home hazards you need to watch out for, and ways to prevent and take care of them.


If you live in an urban area, firetrucks are a part of life, but how often do you think about where those trucks are heading? Every year, about 350,000 homes catch on fire. Many, if not most of those fires are completely avoidable. Your initial home inspection should include your home’s wiring. You want to make sure everything is completely up to code. You also want to make sure you have working smoke detectors. If you have the kind that needs batteries, change them about every six months.

Unplug unused appliances when you can, and make sure there are no frayed cords. Avoid overloading your electrical panel. Always make sure candles are away from any loose fabric and when you light a fire in the fireplace, supervise it. Close the screen so no ashes fly across the room.

Carbon Monoxide

Most people know carbon monoxide as car exhaust, but many homes are contaminated, especially in rooms close to the garage. Make sure there’s good insulation between your home and your garage, and never leave your car running in a closed garage. You should also (in fact, it’s the law) install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Asbestos and Lead

If you live in a home that was built before the late 1970s, you could have asbestos or lead in your home. Asbestos was commonly used in insulation, flooring, and even those once popular popcorn ceilings. Lead was commonly used in paint. Both are relatively safe if they are stable, but once you start tearing down walls or tearing up flooring, the asbestos could become airborne. Peeling lead paint is dangerous to pets and children who might eat it. If your peeling lead paint crumbles into dust, the airborne particles could end up in your lungs.

When you have peeling paint, or if you are about to start a renovation and your home was built before 1977, call a professional to get an inspection. If there is lead or asbestos, it’s best to have a professional remove it.

Slipping and Falling

The leading cause of home accidental deaths is falling. Bathtubs are particularly dangerous, especially for the elderly. Install slip bars, which are smaller and more attractive than in the past. Make sure your stair rails are secure and that there are no tripping hazards like loose carpet.

Choking Hazards

Avoid window treatments with cords to steer clear of this common choking hazard. If you can’t afford new window treatments, secure them above children’s reach.

And a Bit of Common Sense

Keep all hazardous and poisonous things out of reach from children and pets. That includes cleaning supplies, chemicals, medications, and even makeup. When cooking, turn pan handles away from the front of the stove. As a matter of fact, cook on the back burners, if at all possible. If you have young children, buy safety knobs to keep them accidentally. Keep things that might bump people on the head out of reach as well. Keep electrical cords out of the way, and plug all outlets to keep little hands away.



What To Look For When You Need Storage

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Perhaps you’re downsizing and need a place to put your extra stuff, or perhaps there’s a gap in time between your move out date and move in date. Whatever your circumstances, around 10 percent of our local moves involve long or short-term storage. That number rises dramatically for long-distance moves. Not everyone’s storage needs are the same, though. Let’s talk about different types of storage, and what might be best for you.

Storage Locker

When most people think of storage, they think of storage lockers. Storage lockers are usually outside, secured by padlocks, and a gate.

Pros: Many storage lockers can be accessed anytime. Employees cannot access your storage unless your account is in arrears.

Cons: While most storage facilities have cameras and security, if a person has the code, they have access to entire floors, if not entire facilities. Some padlocks are relatively difficult to break, but if a person has the right tools…

The other con to storage lockers is that in most, your items are subject to temperature extremes. That’s obviously less of a concern in California than in other parts of the country, but if you have antiques or art, you might want to think twice. Also, you’re responsible for any damages.

Container Storage

The newest in storage is container storage. You’ve probably seen the crates that are delivered to people’s homes, and either kept there or whisked away after a few days. That is called container storage.

Pros: Container storage is super convenient. You can take your own time loading it, or you can hire help.

Cons: If you underestimate the size of the container you need, it can drive up the cost, and it could take days (depending on availability) to receive another container. If the company will be holding your filled containers, ask where. Most store outside. Since you load the container, you’re responsible for any damages.

Ninja Movers warehouse storage

Warehouse Storage

The third common type of storage is warehouse storage. Warehouse storage is where your goods are stored in wooden storage containers inside a warehouse. Most moving companies offer warehouse storage.

Pros: The movers do pretty much everything. They load the containers and they unload them. They are also responsible for the safety of the containers, to a point. Many warehouses have heat and cooling. While that’s not the same as “climate-controlled,” it’s at least a more stable environment. For short-term storage, warehouse storage is much more economical, since you won’t have to pay for two moves.

Cons: You won’t be able to access the container, but if you really need something, a warehouse employee can help, usually for a fee.


What To Do When You Pack Or Run Out Of Necessities Like Soap

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Image Creative Commons by Leah Kelley via Pexels

When you are moving, the last thing you want to do is go shopping. It’s one thing if you’re running out of a favorite cereal, but it’s something entirely different if you run out of basic necessities like soap, toothpaste, or laundry detergent. Fortunately, there are alternatives. Here’s what to do when you run out of some of your cleansing basics.

What to do when You Run out of Soap or Shampoo

Moving is dirty work. There’s that layer of dust under furniture and the fact that boxes just always feel gritty. I don’t know about you, but after a day of packing, I need a shower. What to do when you run out of soap, though? The most obvious solution is to use shampoo. Women should be extra careful about rinsing their privates, though. There might be fragrance or other additives that could irritate.

On the flip side, body wash can work as a shampoo. Of course, it won’t have all the luxuries of an expensive conditioning or smoothing shampoo, but you might find that it leaves your hair with a lot of volume, because there aren’t a lot of additives to weigh it down.

If you are out of both, you can make a paste from equal parts baking soda and water or vinegar. Use about a tablespoon of each and mix them into a paste. Rinse well to keep your hair from smelling like vinegar.

What to do when You Run out of Toothpaste

Baking soda works as a great substitute for toothpaste too. If you’re anything like me, though, the taste is just a bit too much. You can dramatically improve the flavor of baking soda with just a few ingredients you may already have. Just add coconut oil and your favorite edible essential oil. Here’s a recipe:

What to do when You Run out of Laundry Detergent

If you run out of laundry detergent, the answer is simple. Baking soda makes a wonderful laundry detergent. About 3/4 a cup is enough for a load. If you need a stain remover, use vinegar or dish soap on the stain. Do not use too much dish soap, though, especially if you have a high efficiency washer. You can also make your own laundry detergent out of bar soap and baking soda.

Grate one bar of soap, any brand. Melt the grated soap into a heavy saucepan with a little water. Pour 2 gallons of hot water into a resealable container. Stir in the melted soap and 2 cups of baking soda. Use 1/2 cup per load of laundry.

Source: Hunker.com

If after trying these alternatives, you’re not completely hooked, that’s okay. Just stock up on your favorites after you move.

How To Move Houseplants

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Image CC0 Creative Commons, by Altinka_Bibliotechnaya, via Pixabay

Moving houseplants might seem like a fairly ordinary task, but they are actually some of the most problematic items you will encounter during your move. After you’ve spent so many years nurturing them, will you have to leave them behind?

The difficulty of houseplants is that they are alive and often unwieldy. Some states have regulations against many types of plants entering their borders. Most movers will not move plants long distances – and for good reason. The truck gets no fresh air, and even during moderate temperatures, the back of the truck can get very hot.

If you’ve ever driven into California, you were probably stopped at the border by agents looking for plants and even for fresh fruit. California, along with other states, heavily relies on its agricultural industry. Plants can come with a variety of pests and diseases. Even with the introduction of just one innocent looking houseplant, an epidemic can occur. If you are carrying plants, border agents will have to declare them pest free before you will be allowed to continue. You should check with the state you are moving to to find out what types of regulations they have and if you should arrange for an inspection in advance.

Despite the difficulty, there are ways to keep your houseplants alive during the move. If you are moving locally, many movers will allow the plants inside their truck, with the understanding that there is no temperature regulation. Some plants are hardy enough to withstand a couple of hours in hot or cold temperatures. Some are not. It’s best to research the individual plants before allowing them on a truck if it’s for more than a few minutes.

The number one recommendation is for the plants to be moved in the car, but it’s understandable, that most large, or even medium-sized plants will not fit in a family vehicle. Even if you can fit your plants in the car or if you are moving them in the moving truck, it’s advisable that you “buy” yourself a little insurance by taking cuttings of your favorite plants, which can be stored in plastic bags containing moist vermiculite, peat moss or perlite.

If you do choose to move your plants, it’s important to prepare them:

At least two weeks before the move

  • Repot the plants into plastic, non-breakable pots. It’s important that they live in the new pots in their old environment for at least a couple of weeks. Plants do not like too many changes at once. Your ceramic pots can be packed and moved, so you can repot them again when they are settled into your new home.
  • Prune any wayward growth.
  • Examine your plants for pests and treat if needed.


A couple of days before the move

  • Water your plants. Your plants should be moist on moving day but not wet.


On moving day

  • Pack your plants. Wrap the base in packing paper or in old linens and carefully place them inside a box. Make sure the plant is completely supported in the box. You can carefully put a second box, upside down, over the first box to completely enclose the plant. Be sure to punch some air holes and clearly mark the box.
  • Load the plants last and unload them first.


Once you are settled, don’t shock your houseplants. Unpack them slowly and carefully. Let them sit in the same place for a while to settle into their new environment.


What are the Best Storage Options for your Extra Stuff?

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Image CC 2.0, by Unnar Ýmir Björnsson, via Flickr

Have you ever bought something, took it out of its meticulously packed box and failed to get it back in? Sometimes moving can feel a bit like that. In your old home, for the most part, there was a place for everything and everything had its place.

Your new home might even be bigger, but for some reason, you feel like you are putting square pegs in round holes. You just can’t get all your things to look – well – at home in your new home. You really don’t want to get rid of the table that your Grandfather refinished or the very first piece of furniture you bought together as a couple, but they just don’t work.

Perhaps you’re doing some renovations and you need to clear space. Maybe it’s time to convert the kid’s room to a home gym. Whatever the reason, having extra stuff is an American phenomenon – so much so that the acquisition of extra stuff and the storing of it has prompted a handful of reality TV programs.

As Americans’ need for storage has grown, so have their options for storing. While in the past you might have rented a nearby locker, adorned it with a padlock and called it a day, today, you can store your items in a warehouse or even in a portable container. Each of the individual storage options has their advantages, so how do you choose which one is right for you?


Self Storage

Self storage, also known as “mini storage” is what most people think of when they think of storage. Essentially, with self storage, you are renting a room. You are responsible for moving your goods into storage, although you can use a mover. Some have garage-like doors and some have more conventional doors. Like when you are renting an apartment, the landlord is responsible for the general maintenance but is not responsible for your belongings. While most have some sort of security, it is up to you to provide a secure lock. Blankets and other types of furniture protection might or might not be offered by the storage facility, and if they do it will be at an extra cost. If anything is damaged while in storage, that’s also your responsibility. It is up to you to insure your items, although the storage facility might offer you insurance – at an additional cost. You pay based on the size of the room, no matter how much you have stored in the room. You will have access to your items anytime the facility is open.


Warehouse Storage

Warehouse storage is not as well known as self storage, but for many, it’s a convenient option. Moving companies typically have warehouse storage. The moving company moves your things into storage and they move them out. Everything is professionally packed and will remain in that condition until you are ready to have them delivered. Every item is inventoried both before going into storage and after being delivered. Your items might be stored on shelves or in wooden crates. Since your items never leave the mover’s possession, they have more liability, although it is limited. In California, the liability is only $.60 per pound (that’s right – no matter how valuable an item, you are paid per pound). I’d advise that you still check into additional insurance. You are only charged for how much space you are actually using, so it can be less expensive than self storage. Access is typically given on appointment only and don’t expect to root around in your stuff. The warehouse employees will have to pull them out for you.


Container Storage

Containerized storage is a relative newcomer to the industry. In the last decade, it’s grown tremendously in popularity and for good reason. It offers flexibility that neither warehouse or self-storage can. Containers come to your home. You generally have three days to fill them. Some hire movers to fill them. You have the option of keeping the container in your driveway indefinitely and for an additional cost, if your neighborhood allows. After the container is loaded, the storage company takes it to their warehouse or parking lot. You should purchase insurance for your items, or check with your homeowner’s policy. Like with self storage, you are charged for the full size of the container, no matter how much space you are using. Access policies will vary from company to company.

When To Hire A Handyperson And When To Hire A Contractor

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When something breaks in your home, it’s easy to imagine dollar bills flying out the windows. Depending on what’s wrong, though, you might be able to save money by hiring a handyperson instead of a licensed contractor. Be careful, though, some jobs require licensed contractors. How do you know when to hire a handyperson and when to hire a contractor?

handyperson tool chest

Image CC 2.0, by Ryan Hyde, via Flickr

California has a law about it, actually. If the cost of your repair, including parts and labor, is over $500, you must hire a contractor. That’s the simple answer. The more complicated answer is that it depends on your repair.

Difference between handyperson and contractor

Contractors must pass rigorous exams and prove expertise in their field to earn a license. They are highly regulated, and must be bonded and insured. Anyone who owns tools can call themselves a handyperson. That’s not to say that there aren’t many, many skilled handypeople. If you check sites like your local NextDoor or Angie’s List, you’ll find plenty of referrals.

When you have a clogged drain, or if an electrical wire comes loose, by all means, hire a handyperson. If, though, your pipes explode, of if a wall collapses, call a contractor.

Handypeople are generally available with less notice. In some situations, you might hire a handyperson to prevent further damage before hiring a contractor to fix the problem. If you need to perform major work, a contractor will work with your city to get permits and to ensure everything is done up to code. All contractors should be insured, but before you hire one, verify it. While many handypeople warranty their work, in other words, they’ll come back if their fix doesn’t take, they don’t carry insurance. If they accidentally break a pipe or rip your drywall, it’s your responsibility to fix it.

Regardless of whether your job requires a handyperson or a contractor, do your due diligence. Get references and get at least three bids, if you can.

Image CC 2.0, by Ryan Hyde, via Flickr

Nearly Everyone Forgets To Change Locks When They Move — Here’s What You Need To Know

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You bought a new house, everything is packed, you’ve hired the movers, you’ve transferred utilities and arranged your children’s schools. There’s probably one thing you’ve forgotten, though, and it could save you from having your new home burglarized. It’s time to change locks.

Receiving the keys to your new home is an exciting time. The problem, though, is that while they might look shiny and new, they might be anything but. The odds are they are the same keys to the same locks that the old owner had, and you can’t know how many other people have received copies — the dog walker, the babysitter, their teenagers’ friends? No one is saying that none of those people are trustworthy, but why risk it? You, and whoever you choose, should be the only people who have access to your home.

You have many, many options when it comes time to change locks. Some are inexpensive, and others aren’t. In a nutshell, you can rekey your locks, which is inexpensive — probably somewhere around $200.

Replace the locks

You can also replace the locks, and these days, there are so many options available, you’ll have to ask yourself a few questions:

Are you technical, or do you prefer analog?

Do you like using keys, or would you prefer something more high-tech?

Do you sometimes give temporary access to non-family members?

If you prefer the good-old fashioned key locks, they are better and stronger than ever. Look for materials like stainless steel or zinc alloy. This Schlage lock is often considered the best.

If you’re tired of fumbling for keys, or if you have a lot of temporary visitors, there are many options. Modern locks use a number of technologies, including WiFi, Bluetooth, and Z-Wave, to let you unlock and lock your home without keys. Some offer cameras and some even offer security alarms.

You should still look for the same hard metal material, but some locks are more high-tech than others. If you want the ability to control access, opt for a system with an RFID chip reader. Similar to what you find in most hotels and motels, RFID readers scan a card or key fob. They don’t connect to your WiFi or Bluetooth, so they’re relatively hack-proof. You can disable and recode cards quite easily, so if a card is lost, you don’t have to worry about it. On the other hand, RFID readers don’t solve the problem of fumbling around in your purse. You’ll still have to pull out a card.

Another lower-tech option is a keypad lock. You simply enter your code to lock or unlock the door. This gives you the convenience of not having to fish through your pockets, and you can change the codes at will, or add temporary codes. Like most modern locks, though, they are battery powered and the batteries can die. Fortunately, you can still use a key.

Smart Locks

You can purchase any one of a number of “smart locks,” that may or may not be connected to other devices in your home. Bluetooth locks allow you to control your locks, within range of your home. WiFi locks allow you to control your locks from an app. A third technology, called Z-Wave, is a compromise. It uses less energy than WiFi and it has a longer range than Bluetooth. It enables you to control your thermostat and some other appliances as well, as long as you have a smart home device. Some locks use all three technologies. C-Net reviewed several smart locks.

Whatever you choose when you change locks, Consumer Reports says that the biggest risk to your lock good old fashioned technology, drills and feet. Poor quality locks are easily drilled or even kicked in. They found only one that will protect your home, the Medeco Maxum. Please note that we have not tried the lock ourselves.

Featured image CC0 Creative Commons, by SyedWasiqShah, via Pixabay

How To Tip Movers (And Everyone Else)

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Image via Wikimedia

It’s the end of a long day of moving. A tired crew leader hands you the final paperwork to sign and you are more than willing to pay for a job well done. The crew has worked unbelievably hard. They listened to everything you said and everything is now safely in its new place. So how do you tip movers for a job very well done?

Most reputable movers have a strict policy against asking for tips. Tipping should be voluntary, but it is customary when your movers have done a good job for you. So, how much should you tip?

A good rule of thumb is to tip movers $5.00 per mover per hour. It’s the crew leader’s job to divide the tips and for most companies, if the crew leader doesn’t divide them equitably, it’s a firing offense.

If you move locally, you can tip at the end of the move. If you move long distance, you will probably have two separate crews. You should tip when the truck is loaded and again when it’s unloaded. If that amount takes you above your budget, that’s fine. Remember, tipping is voluntary and whatever you can afford will be appreciated. Even $20 per mover is acceptable. It’s also acceptable to order the crew a pizza or sandwiches during the move.

But what about other services? How much and when should you tip?

EmilyPost.com has some great guidelines.

Most waitpeople make very little money (as low as $2.13 an hour). Generally, you should tip between 15-20% before tax. *Note for single people: One of the (many) things that attracted me to my husband is that he is a VERY generous tipper.

Tip home delivery people between 10-15%.

Bartenders, about $1.00 – $2.00 per drink.

You can ignore the coffee shop tip jars, but if you go there often, feeding the jar might ensure some extra special treatment.

Tip valets between $2.00 – $5.00.

Tip beauticians and aestheticians between 15-20%.

Anyone who carries your luggage (including skycaps, doorman, taxi drivers and bellhops) should be tipped $2.00 for the first bag and $1.00 for each additional.

Taxi drivers should be tipped between 15-20%.

It’s appropriate to tip anyone who goes above and beyond their normal job.



How To Make A Summer Move Without Overheating

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Summer is by far the busiest time in the moving industry. Children are out of school, for many, work is a bit slower, and you don’t have to worry about Mother Nature snowing on your moving parade.

Featured image: Public Domain, via Wikimedia

If your home, like many in California, doesn’t have air conditioning, moving day can be especially hot. First, there’s the fact that you’re expending a lot of energy. That’s sweat-worthy even in the dead of winter. Then, there’s the in and out. That’s when things can really get animal style (in that human beings quickly start smelling like livestock). The open doors let in all the heat you’re desperately trying to keep out.

Fortunately, there are strategies you can take to help keep the heat out and to keep you and your movers from overheating.

Dress appropriately

Most moving companies provide uniforms, which usually consist of heavy, often black, pants, and a t-shirt. Some moving companies allow shorts, but for safety reasons, many do not. Your movers will look hot and sweaty after a few hours. It’s part of the job. You, though, have a bit more flexibility. Wear loose, light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics. Remember that your house will be in a upheaval, so if you have a tendency to bump into things, long pants are advised.

Stay hydrated

Most movers bring a drink or two with them, but working in hot weather needs more than a couple of drinks. Provide lots of water or Gatorade, and don’t berate your mover for taking hydration breaks. Imagine how much slower the move will go if they start dehydrating.

Keep packers inside during your summer move

Most moving crews have designated packers. If you are the designated packer, you should try to stay inside as well. This helps keep you from (pardon the image) sweating all over your clean clothes and linens.

Keep the utilities on in both places

Even if you don’t have air conditioning, use fans. You’ll also be very happy to have a refrigerator and freezer. Stock both refrigerators with refreshing summer beverages and fruits.

Keep your children and pets cool

If you can, send your children and pets to stay with a friend or in daycare. Not only will this keep them cool, it will keep them out of the way and it will help keep them happy during the stressful move.

Schedule your summer move to beat the heat

Have the movers come as early as possible. If you want the movers to pack for you, ask if they can pack the day before so the heavy lifting can be done in the morning, when it’s cooler.

How To Make Your Move Less Stressful — For Real

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One of the most overused cliches in the moving industry is that moving is stressful. Duh.

Let me tell you about my last move. I chose not to let the movers pack because I needed to do some serious organizing and purging. I was lucky that I had the option of working from home, but that only meant that on top of my long work hours, I had to prepare for the move.

During the three weeks leading up to the move, we still had not closed on our house and things were not looking particularly good. The house was bank-owned. The bank received higher offers than the one that they accepted from us, so they tried everything to get out of the deal. Still, if the move were to happen, I had to go on as scheduled.

Fortunately after several anxiety attacks, our broker worked his magic and we closed on the house, a week late.

None of that begins to address the physical toll the move took on me. My back and knees compelled me to stay in bed, but I couldn’t. Instead, I packed. I lifted heavy objects. I bent over far too often. It didn’t have to be that way.

Don’t be like me. The best way to manage the stress of your move is to prepare months in advance, not weeks. Pick a daily or weekly closet or dresser, and donate everything you don’t wear or use.

Hire an Organizer

If you can afford it, hire people to help you out. A professional organizer will cost between $30 and $80 an hour. That might sound like a lot of money, but they can help you save on the move and they can help free you up to do your real job.

Let the Movers do it

Full service movers are exactly that. They won’t help you organize, but they will pack anything you want them to pack. They can even unpack for you. Again, you will pay for the service, but they will knock it out in a day or two. That’s a lot better than you can do on your own.

Hire Cleaners

For me, the most stressful part of the move was the aftermath. While I had hundreds of unpacked boxes in my new home, my old home still needed a lot of attention. Here I thought I was done with that place. I recruited a couple of friends and we banged it out within a day. Still, next time, I will hire someone to make the house spick and span for the new residents.

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