Monthly Archives: October 2013

Safe at home: 5 home fire safety tips and how to protect your family from home heating fires

Long, cold fall and winter nights are the perfect time to relax at home in front of a cozy fire. Unfortunately, this time of the year is also when the frequency of home heating fires increases, especially in December, January, and February.

Here are some quick tips from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on what you can do to stay safe and protect your family:

Smoke detector1. Test your smoke alarms at least once a month. You should place smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home.

2. Install carbon monoxide detectors outside sleeping areas and on every level of your home, and test them regularly.

3. Have a qualified professional clean and inspect your heating equipment—fireplaces, wood stoves, furnaces, and chimneys at least once a year.

4. Turn off portable heaters when you leave a room or before you go to sleep. Use space heaters with an automatic shut off.

5. If you use a portable fireplace, take care to place it on a firm surface away from table edges or other furniture. Store ethanol fuel in a closed container, away from the fireplace and out of your children’s reach. Use a utility lighter or long wooden match to light the fire, and never pour fuel on an already-lit fire or into a fireplace that’s not completely cool to the touch.

Want more info? Visit http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers for more consumer fire safety tips.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Ready, set, rake: helpful fall gardening and lawn tips

Fall leaves with rakeRaking it in. Over the next month or so, the typical suburban lawn will be covered with a thick blanket of leaves. It’s best to wait until all the leaves have fallen before attacking your property for one big massive cleanup. It’s also easy to get overwhelmed looking at all those leafy wonders scattered around, so try to tackle your lawn with the divide-and-conquer approach:

Have a plan of attack. Rake your lawn in segments, one day at a time. Or be a job creator and hire your kids or some neighborhood kids to help you out. Just make time for some pile-jumping. Enjoy your leaf-exterminating experience!

Yard fashion. Wear long sleeves, long pants and sturdy work shoes. Gardening gloves are a great idea for those of us with delicate office-worker hands. Check your bod for ticks when you go inside.

Use a wide, plastic, light-weight leaf rake, and gather as many leaves as you can at a time onto a standard-sized tarp, usually 6’x8’. Look for rot-friendly spots away from your home or trees where you can dump leaves, garden trimmings, and kitchen waste (eggshells, coffee grinds, shredded paper are cool; animal or dairy products, diseased plants, toxic weeds or mature weed seeds, or peanut butter are not) to compost out of sight. If you’re a city person with a small, more manageable lot, bag your leaves up in paper leaf/mulch bags and put them out on curb to be collected and recycled on city-wide garden waste days.

Compost = gardener’s gold. It takes a little over a year for those piles of leaves and other leafy materials you dumped in the woods to flatten out into a foot-high mass of rich leaf compost or leaf mold. If you don’t have too many pine needles or acidic-rich oak leaves in the pile, you can use this nutrient-rich stuff for garden mulch around trees and shrubs. It’s cheaper and better for your landscaping than that smelly dyed pine bark mulch.

Hate raking? Hire landscapers to blow your leaves into the woods (or have them take them away if you’re on a smaller lot). Or consider mowing them into tiny bits and leaving them to compost on your lawn. Another idea: splurge on a mulching mower, which works better than a regular grass-cutting mower on leaves. Save branches for kindling in those roaring winter fires.

The grass is always greener… Drier, sunnier fall months are the perfect time to fertilize and seed your lawn. You can rent or borrow an aerator to seed with a mix that’s at least half fine fescues and bluegrasses, the ideal blend for Southern New England yawns. Better yet, consider downsizing the size of your lawn and switching things up with more native plants and vegetables that don’t require as much water, chemicals or back-breaking labor. Click here to read our post about 21th century lawns.

Cut it out. Prune tomatoes, deadhead flowering plants, and remove dead and dying plants from your garden beds and throw them on your compost heap.

Rake out your beds and clear out the clutter before snow falls.

Clean it up. Cover your grill (if you don’t use it year round); cover or store your garden furniture; roll up and store garden hoses off the ground; and drain and turn off outside water spigots. If you have an automatic irrigation system, turn it off now before you forget. It’s also time to replace the screens on your storm doors (and windows if applicable) with glass to buffer freezing winter winds.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Cold weather: Fireplace and chimney safety tips

FireplaceLast week’s recent heat wavelet aside, we’re getting ready for the colder weather, which means long, cozy nights in front of the fire.

Before you light up that wood stove or fireplace for your first fire of the season, make sure that it’s safe and ready to go. You should clean both the stovepipe and hearth opening to the chimney before you strike that first match (a wire brush would be a good tool for this). While you’re in there, check for clogs, cracks, or leaks. Check that stovepipe joints are tightly sealed. If you’re not sure how to clean and check your fireplace, call a professional chimney sweep to do the job.

Does your wood stove have a brick surround? Check the bricks for damage or cracks. Seal cracked bricks with repair cement, found at your neighborhood hardware store. Woodstoves should have a minimum 36” clearance on all sides to avoid danger of high temperatures causing nearby surfaces to catch fire.

Once your chimney, stove or fireplace have been checked and are in good working order, stock up on some well-seasoned hardwoods: ash, beech, hickory, maple or oak are all good choices. The wood should be dried for at least a year prior to burning; if it’s still green, store it on your property that’s not too close your home (to prevent rot and insects) or under a tarp to protect it from the weather. This will also help dry it out faster. You’ll know it’s ready when there are cracks in the end grain.

Enjoy the fall!

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.