As the winter holidays approach, many decorate their homes to celebrate this time of year. From outside lighting to indoor décor, it’s important to make sure your holiday prep doesn’t jeopardize home safety! The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (or InterNACHI) is a great resource for everything related to home inspections and safety, and has created the following tips and recommendations to ensure your holiday season is as safe and enjoyable as possible.
- Use caution with holiday decorations and, whenever possible, choose those made with flame-resistant and non-combustible materials.
- Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials, and do not use candles to decorate Christmas trees.
- Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings, and replace damaged items before plugging lights in. If you have any questions about electrical safety, ask an InterNACHI inspector (that’s us*) during your next scheduled inspection.
- Do not overload extension cords.
- Don’t mount lights in any way that can damage the cord’s wire insulation. To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples–don’t use nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them.
- Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations.
- Do not use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted – yikes!
- Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
- Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets, or loose connections.
- Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground-fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
- Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
Decorations – Deck the Halls and Check the Halls
- Use only non-combustible and flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. For painted and metal ornaments, be sure they are non-leaded metals.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
- In homes with small children take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp and breakable, and keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children.
- Avoid trimmings that resemble candy and food that may tempt a young child to put them in their mouth.
When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “fire-resistant.”
When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches, and when bent between your fingers needles do not break.
When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators and portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
Be sure to keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.
Make sure the base is steady so the tree won’t tip over easily.
Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers and other decorations from fireplace area. Check to see that the flue is open.
Be cautions when using “fire salts,” which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten.
Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
Children and Pets – Protect Those You Love
Poinsettias are known to be poisonous to humans and animals if consumed, so keep them well out of reach.
Keep decorations at least 6 inches above a child’s reach.
Avoid using tinsel. It can fall on the floor and dangerous is consumed by a curios pet or child.
Keep any ribbons on gifts and tree ornaments shorter than 7 inches. A child could wrap a longer strand of ribbon around their neck and choke.
Avoid mittens with strings for children. The string can get tangled around the child’s neck and cause them to choke.
Watch children and pets around space heaters or the fireplace. Do not leave a child or pet unattended.
Store scissors and any sharp objects that you use to wrap presents out of your child’s reach.
Inspect wrapped gifts for small decorations, such as candy canes, gingerbread men, and mistletoe berries, all of which are choking hazards.