Healthy Homes – Keep It Safe – Ask The Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

Healthy HomesThis year, we’ve run articles on the Healthy Homes Program, where we focused on the principles of Healthy Homes: Keep It Dry, Keep It Clean, Keep It Pest Free, Keep It Ventilated.  The next principle to discuss is Keep It Safe.

Safety around the home is something that we think is common in every home, yet injuries are the leading cause of death and disability among children and young adults.  Injuries are not accidents.  They are preventable.  Of these injuries, falls are the leading cause (33%), followed by poisoning (27%), and fires and burns (18%).  Safety is the reason that most municipal governments have required codes for homes, such as a smoke detector in every bedroom, handrails required for stairs and deck steps, anti-tilt devices for ovens.  Even ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI’s) are designed and required in order  to prevent injuries.  These codes go a long way in helping to keep a home safe. 

There are however, many areas where it is up to us.  For example, if you have young children and you open your windows, do you have a window safety guard?  Do you lock up your medicines or household chemicals?  82% of homes have medicine in unlocked drawers and 69% of homes with young children have chemicals in unlocked areas.  Any product that has a label that says warning, danger, or caution should be in a secure location or locked away.  Too often, peoples store products like drain opener under the kitchen sink, where it is easily accessible.

When we hear about injuries or deaths around the home, it may seem incredible that preventative actions weren’t taken, but sometimes we just don’t realize there is a potential problem.  For example, a household with no children really doesn’t need safety locks on drawers or doors, or covers for electrical outlets.  However, if there are grandchildren that visit the home, this could be a problem.  If you should ever see a potential problem in a friends home, be a friend, and let them know about it. 

Through our recent training to become a certified Healthy Homes inspector, in conjunction with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation St. Louis Chapter, we have developed a 65-point, whole house inspection for families who deal with allergy and asthma issues to help identify and remedy environmental issues that cause problems.  We’re offering this inspection at a reduced rate of $90 for the next month for anyone affiliated with, or who mentions the AAFA-STL when scheduling their appointment (normal value is $140).  What’s more, for every 5 inspections performed, Get It Done is offering one hour of service to AAFA-STL clients.

Clogged Dryer Vent – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis – Get It Done

I’ve read that a clogged dryer vent is a fire hazard.  Why is it a fire hazard and how do I clean it?

A clogged dryer vent can indeed be a fire hazard.  If you think about the vent being stuffed with lint and the hot dryer air trying to get past it, it isn’t difficult for a fire to get started.  I’ve heard that hikers sometimes take a small bag of dryer lint with them to help get a campfire started.  That should give you an idea of the danger.

If you don’t clean your vent regularly, you might notice that the dryer takes longer to dry a load of clothes.  In most cases, there is nothing wrong with the dryer, it’s just that the circulation of the heat is reduced by not being able to exit.  Cleaning the vent and keeping it clean can likely reduce the running time of the dryer.

The easiest way to clean a dryer vent is to use an electric leaf blower, if you have one.  Begin by moving the dryer out to gain access to where the vent goes into the wall.  Remove the vent hose, which is usually attached to the dryer with a 3” or 4” clamp.  Loosening the clamp with a screwdriver will allow you to do remove it.  For the leaf blower, you’ll need an attachment to go on the motor body (instead of attaching the long tube pieces that are normally used).  We use a PVC 4” to 3” reducer, but this may not fit perfectly for all leaf blowers, so you may end up just taping this reducer to the end of the leaf blower.

Next, on the outside of the house, remove the vent cover housing, if you’re able.  Sometimes these housings are just screwed on, so removing it shouldn’t be difficult.  Then, insert the leaf blower where the dryer vent begins at the dryer location and let the air blow all of the lint out.  This may take a few minutes.  It is also a good idea to physically check the outside housing, as sometimes the lint may build up here, just before it exits the house.   If so, just remove as much as you can here by hand, then run the leaf blower again.  Afterwards, it’s just a matter of putting things back the way they were.

If you don’t have an electric leaf blower, you may have to disassemble the duct work in order to clean it.  If you have the solid, rigid ducts, this can take quite a bit of time.  If you have the flexible ducts, it is usually easier to simply replace it, as the cost is about $15, and no matter what you do, you’ll never  get all of the lint out of them.

Good luck!

Healthy Homes – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis

We recently moved into a new home, and I’m noticing a damp smell in the basement.  Also, my son seems to be experiencing more symptoms of his allergies.  Can this be related?

Great question!  I’ve recently been getting a number of calls regarding allergies and asthma related issues.  So many in fact, that I recently received training from the National Center for Healthy Housing, receiving their Healthy Homes Specialist credential and am partnering with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, St. Louis Chapter (AAFA-STL) to help get the word out on how our home environment can affect our family’s health.

The program consists of many different issues surrounding seven basic premises:

Keep it dry, keep it clean, keep it ventilated, keep it pest-free, keep it safe, keep it contaminant-free, and keep it maintained.     

Ignoring any one of these categories can cause issues that will affect allergy and asthma sensitive individuals.

As an example, if you are noticing a damp smell in your basement, chances are that water is penetrating the interior somehow.  Dampness in drywall, even cement, especially in a dark area, can lead to mold, which in itself can cause allergy symptoms in sensitive individuals.  In addition, if the area is moisture, it can also attract ants and other bugs, which can also trigger reactions.

Mold and moisture can affect individuals greatly, causing upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughing, wheezing, as well as asthma symptoms.  Keeping things dry is a key factor.

Through our recent training to become a certified healthy homes inspector in conjunction with AAFA-STL, we have developed a 65-point, whole house inspection for families who deal with allergy and asthma issues to help identify and remedy environmental issues that can cause problems.   We’re offering this inspection at a reduced rate of $90 through the end of this year for anyone affiliated with or who mentions AAFA-STL when scheduling their appointment (normal value is $140).  What’s more exciting about this inspection is that for every five purchased, Get It Done is offering one hour of service to AAFA-STL clients.

AAFA-STL is a nonprofit organization has been serving the asthmatic and allergic needs of the St. Louis community for over 31 years. AAFA-STL’s medical assistance program, Project Concern, provides uninsured and underinsured children with life-saving asthma and allergy medications, equipment, education, and support.  Our educational programs and resources reach families, schools, and nurses all over the Greater St. Louis area. (www.aafastl.org)