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Safe at home

If you live in an older home built to earlier standards, chances are that there are a number of things you can do to make your home a safer place to live.

Not all safety improvements are expensive and time-consuming; many may be modest and simple but can still make a difference. Your builder, electrician and plumber are the best people to advise you on possible improvements that can be made to your home. Some may already be included in your renovation plans; but it may be cost-effective for your builder to make other improvements at the same time.

  • Hardwiring your smoke detectors into your electrical system eliminates the risk of batteries running low or being ‘temporarily’ removed. This is a simple measure that can save your family and property in case of fire.

  • Residual current devices (RCD) provide additional protection from electrical shock in high-risk areas such as damp or wet environments. Check with your renovator to see whether an RCD would be suitable for particular areas.

  • Too few electrical outlets can result in a tangle of wires and extension cords. People can trip, pull lamps over or pull hot appliances off kitchen counters. Adding outlets can be relatively easy, depending on the condition of your electrical system.

  • Make it easy to move around safely outdoors in the dark. Install adequate lighting outside the entrance door, by stairs, along walkways and at other strategic locations such as your garbage and recycling storage area.

  • Check all exit doors and windows. Can adults and children get to and open them in the event of an emergency? Plan an escape route and discussed it with everyone in the house, just in case.

  • Painted exterior stairs and porch floors can be slippery when wet. Adding sand to the paint will give your feet a better grip and prevent falls.

  • Older interior stairs may be steep or narrow, with undersized steps. Install a handrail on the wall at the proper height to give all family members, young and old, something to hold on to. Check that balustrade on stairs inside and out are in good shape, with no loose parts and proper spacing to prevent children from falling through or getting stuck. Renovating might be the time to install a new balustrade that meets today’s building regulations.

  • A grab bar next to the tub or shower is helpful to keep both young and old from sliding and falling. Or, if you are redoing your bathroom and don’t want a grab bar now, reinforce the wall for a future installation.

  • Replace slippery bathroom floor coverings with non-slip flooring.

  • Rapid changes in water pressure and temperature are common in older homes, depending on how, when and where water is used. This is not only uncomfortable, it can also be hazardous. Pressure-balanced valves for the shower and bathtub prevent scalding in the bathroom by automatically adjusting the flow of hot water if there is a sudden drop in cold water, e.g. when a toilet is flushed. Other anti-scald devices include tempering valves or thermostatic mixing valves that work by mixing hot and cold water together. You may also be able to lower the thermostat setting on your hot water tank.

Also discuss any security concerns with your builder who can advise you on measures to safeguard against break-ins. These may include window locks, automated lighting or alarm systems. Ultimately, you should feel safe and secure in your home.

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