Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women, and for most people, the subject of lung cancer immediately conjures up a particular image: smoking. This automatic association is legitimate, for about 82% of lung cancer deaths are attributable to cigarette smoking. However, there is another killer who strikes in many of our homes: radon.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon exposure is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the U.S.
Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas produced from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil and rock. The gas can accumulate indoors, causing exposure to DNA-damaging radiation.
There are two main ways radon can make its way into your home. The first is through the soil or rock that is under or surrounding your house. As the uranium in the soil releases radon, the radon can seep into your house through cracks in the floors and the walls. Because most houses have limited air circulation, once radon gets in, it stays, leading to elevated levels, most commonly in the basement and lowest levels of the house. The second-way radon enters your home is through your well or groundwater. Then, when you turn on any faucet, it releases the radon into the air.
The EPA estimates that residential radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year worldwide. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t find out they have radon in their home until a family member is diagnosed with lung cancer.
Fortunately, testing a home for radon is relatively simple, and home radon mitigation systems usually cost between $800 and $1,500.???????
As a part of my home inspections business, I offer radon testing to establish whether your home is within the recommended EPA levels of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or lower. Radon testing takes place in the basement and requires that the windows and doors remain closed (as much as possible) for a period of 48 hours. Then I collect the testing equipment and provide clients with a printout of the results and names of reputable contractors for mitigation, if necessary.
If you have not had your home tested for radon and would like to schedule a Standalone Radon inspection, give me a call to discuss your concerns or simply visit my website and schedule your
appointment online. The cost for the test is $175. My contact information is at the top of this article. You can also download a free copy of the EPA’s “Citizen’s Guide to Radon” on my website if you’d like to learn more about this home safety issue.
No one wants to take a fall on ice, so how can you make icy surfaces less slippery? A product like ice melt, which employ salt blends that lower the freezing point of precipitation when it hits the ground, melting existing snow and ice to reduce the amount that will accumulate after it’s applied. However, they have less-than-desirable side effects.
Experts say that any salt used to de-ice surfaces will seep into porous pavements, causing concrete to rust, crack and deteriorate. Salt-based deicers can also cause problems for your lawn and garden and will often find their way into lakes, streams and groundwater. There is also an impact on pets, who can experience dried-out or cracked skin if they get salt on their paws.
So, how can you keep your sidewalks and walkways safe without doing harm? The best deicer, bar none, is a shovel! Get outside and shovel before you walk or drive on the surface. Shoveling is also the best way to reduce the amount of product needed on icy surfaces. The more snow and ice you remove manually, the less product you will have to use and the more effective it will be.
Choose a good shovel that will help prevent a sore back. Snowplow first at an angle, use a heavy plastic shovel (not metal) on finished concrete patios to avoid scratches) & shovel frequently during a storm rather than tackling all 12” of accumulation at once.
If the temperature is below 15 degrees (too cold for salt) use sand, kitty litter or sawdust to provide traction on ice. (They are also good products to carry in your vehicle all winter in case you get stuck.)
Next, if you want to use ice melt, choose a product that carries the EPA Safer Choice label as the ingredients are safer for humans and the environment, without sacrificing quality. Try Premier products by CP Industries; Safe Step products by Compass Minerals; K-9 Pet-Friendly Ice Melt by EC Grow or Advanced Melt or Nature’s Choice by EcoChem.
Another unusual but potentially effective option (from what I’ve read) is to apply beet juice deicer. It lowers the melting point of ice and snow and is considered safer for animals, plants and concrete. It’s also one of the only products that will work in extremely cold temperatures, anything from about -5 degrees F or colder.
A final tip: When using salt, less is more. Use less than four pounds of salt per 1,000 sq ft. (one pound of salt fits in a 12 ounce coffee mug.) Once ice has melted, any visible salt or sand should be swept up to prevent it from washing away & causing damage to local bodies of water.
By Chet DeLarm
My family just returned from a short vacation to the Tetons and Yellowstone Nat’l Park, where outhouses are actually the most practical ‘restroom’ option available as water and power supplies are limited. You may wrinkle your nose at the thought of using a smelly old s***house, but when the urge hits, odds are you will hold your breath and open that door anyway!
After doing just that in Yellowstone, it made me think about the luxury of indoor plumbing that we take for granted today—and wonder how we evolved to realize that we had to do something about our stinky poo. Well, here’s the scoop on poop!
The Romans suspended a seat over a flowing stream. The Chinese built sit-down ‘facilities’ that dumped into their pigsties. (Yes, pigs apparently love poo, but let’s keep moving on.) In the 1600’s the chamber pots and ‘necessary rooms’ typically dumped their waste into the streets of the town. Around 1870, the frontier outhouse let us have some privacy and contain the smell—and we just relocated the flimsy outhouse when the existing hole got full. Simple! But the wealthy, including Thomas Jefferson, favored the legendary “brick s***house.” Much harder to move.
Even our modern ’poo paper’ was quite the welcome invention. I’m sure it was rough on the butt to wipe with leaves, corncobs and the Sears & Roebuck catalog pages (read then wipe). Joseph Gayetty created the first commercial toilet paper in 1857 and it was advertised as “the greatest necessity of the age.”
Then, the science of the early 20th century discovered the icky stuff in the poo and the outhouse was slowly abandoned in favor of indoor plumbing and municipal systems. British plumbing entrepreneur, Thomas Crapper, opened the world’s first bathroom showroom in 1870, complete with one of the first widely successful flushing toilets and a sink. (Note: As “Thomas Crapper & CO” was printed on every toilet, the soldiers took to calling toilets “The Crapper” and brought that slang term for the toilet back to the US.) Even though flushing toilets have actually been around since 1596, in 2000, 1.7 million Americans were still using outhouses in rural America (including the Amish, Preppers and the extreme poor).
If you want to build an outhouse today, you can probably do so for about $500 IF building codes allow them in your area. You can also purchase a composting toilet from Lehman’s—that’s the geek way —saves all that digging.
Lastly, why the crescent moon or star carved into every outhouse door? The consensus is that it served both as a light source and to distinguish between male/female outhouses (moon for females; star for males). It also simply could have served as a door handle. This was a lot of research, I’m pooped!
Sources: Cottagelife.com; homestead.org;smithsonianmag.com
Like many other men, I handle the lawn care at our house, and have really gotten into having a great yard. To have a thick, green lawn you must start with quality seed and fertilizer. I purchase these products locally from Schubert’s Sod Depot and fertilize once a month all summer long.
WATERING - I find that watering less frequently, but for longer periods of time is a better way to promote healthy root growth. This method forces the roots to grow deeper to reach the water in the soil and help to keep up the oxygen levels in the soil. If I start to see the grass getting dry I will do extra hand watering or up the irrigation time, especially during really hot and dry times.
FERTILIZE − Fertilize mid-spring, early fall and late fall, at a minimum, to sustain steady growth throughout the year. I personally try to fertilize once a month during the growing season. Remember to water after application to avoid burning. − Use a fertilizer with nitrogen; both traditional and organic types work. Schubert’s 20-20-10 mixture works great for me. − Avoid weed-and-feed formulas to prevent damage to nearby trees and shrubs. Pull or spot spray weeds instead.
MOW − Use your mower’s higher settings to promote healthy root growth and preserve moisture in the grass. − Mow frequently enough so you only remove 1/3 of the grass blade to prevent stress (1-2 times per week). - I don't recommend mulching as I find that it clogges the lawn with clippings and hinders growth. Fertilizing should provide all the nutrients your lawn needs. − Keep your mower's blade sharp for a clean cut. If you see tearing on the top of the grass it is time to sharpen. − Mow when the grass blades are dry to help prevent disease and not bog down your mower.
CORE AERATE − I choose not to aerate, as I do not find it necessary for my yard, but if you do - Core aerate once or twice per year in spring or fall to provide oxygen to the soil and encourage deeper roots. − Water thoroughly 24-48 hours before aerating. − Apply grass seed to thin areas after core aerating. − Avoid power raking.
That gives you a good start, then for those of us under the rule of COS utilities there are these Water-Wise Rules to help keep us in line.
6 Key Water-wise Rules for lawns with sprinkler systems:
Trees, Shrubs, Flower and Vegetable Watering Guidelines:
Watering is allowed any time with a drip irrigation system, handheld hose with a shutoff nozzle or other handheld watering container.
COS Utilities states that their priority is education and helping customers find success with the new rules. However, customers who violate the rules may be fined $100.
Visit csu.org for more water-wise information, including irrigation rebates and instructional videos.
Homesandgardens.com had this excellent article that I want to share with you this month—and I’ve added my personal comments as well.
For security and durability, Accoya (a chemically treated hardwood) and oak are popular choices for front doors. Traditional door specialists like Voysey and Jones will produce doors to match the period of your home complete with ‘antiqued’ brass door hardware for timeless appeal.
For contemporary facades, companies like Silvelox or Urban Front lead the way with wide, pared-down doors in striking unpainted woods such as American Black walnut, wenge or modish Fumed Oak with glazed panels and pivot hinges completing the look.
‘Always consider the location of your house before you decide,’ says Urban Front designer Elizabeth Assaf. ‘A south-facing house will demand a harder wood and it’s always a good idea to get samples and hold them up to the facade to gauge the effect.‘
On a similar note, since your door will be exposed to outside elements, it's essential to use the proper paint to prevent peeling and fading later. Latex exterior paints provide weather-resistant coverage. If your door is metal, look for one with built-in rust protection. No matter what you choose, you will need to go over the door with an exterior primer first.
Door-friendly exterior paints are available in a variety of finishes, including matte, semi-gloss and glossy. A high-gloss finish will bring out architectural details but will also show more knicks and blemishes on a door. For a more forgiving front door paint finish that will hide flaws, opt for a satin paint.
Scale matters. One larger piece will have more punch than smaller fittings. When choosing the finish, if your interior is contemporary then a nickel or chrome finish will work well with period joinery. Equally, a rural exterior will be better complemented by softer antique tones such as bronze or brass.
Chrome & nickel are the hardiest finishes requiring little or no maintenance.
First things first, be sure to pull out a hose and hand water your lawn and beds on warm days when the daytime temperature is above 40 degrees. In our dry climate, our plants also need water in the winter to survive. Late fall is also a good time to fertilize your trees to give them nutrients for the winter months. Lastly, check the following cleanup projects off your list so your yard can enjoy its hibernation—and so can you!
Leave some plants. Tempted to start fresh by removing all
annual plant remains from your garden? Leaving some behind can provide natural mulch for your soil! We suggest keeping more
delicate plants (like lettuce, cucumbers, and basil) in the ground to naturally recycle nutrients. Consider removing plants that will easily reseed themselves.
Trim perennials. Make sure you’re trimming back any dead, messy, or untidy parts of your perennials. Giving them room to breathe will be immensely beneficial come spring.
Nourish & protect soil. This is a great time to top off your
garden beds and nourish your soil over the winter with homegrown or store-bought compost. To really protect your soil from any harsh winds and keep it in place for spring, consider spreading straw or planting cover crops.
Clean and organize your gardening tools. Imagine coming out to your yard for the start of spring with cleaned and organized tools.
We chose to compare gas vs battery-powered mowers and omitted corded electric mowers because the likelihood of running over the cord or blowing a circuit breaker is just too high.
Consider your lawn size:
Large lawns (over 14,000 sq ft)...A Gas mower is better to finish mowing in one shot.
Small to Medium lawns (0-14,000 sq ft)...A battery-powered mower that can run 20-45 minutes per battery charge is better suited here. Purchase an extra battery and keep it charged to double your mowing time.
Consider your terrain and maneuverability:
Battery-operated mowers are easiest to maneuver. At an average of 50 to 60lbs, they are fairly light and easy to maneuver on level terrain. Some of the newer battery models are also self-propelled, but this option usually reduces battery run time by about 1/3.
A gas mower can weigh in over 90lbs, which can make it difficult to push it up an incline unless it’s self-propelled.
Least noise pollution—Gas lawn mowers are the noisiest and emit around 95 decibels of racket—comparable to the sound of a motorcycle. Electric mowers (corded and battery operated) produce between 65 to 75 decibels—the sound of a washing machine running.
Most eco-friendly: Electric mowers create zero emissions, but the rechargeable batteries for contain lithium, the mining of which has been known to pollute water supplies. If going green is your top priority, a corded electric mower is likely to have the least impact on the environment. Fossil fuel powered gas mowers emit hydrocarbon gases into the air and require the storage of flammable gasoline.
All mowers should have their blades sharpened each spring to ensure that they leave a clean cut on grass blades. But gas engines require regular maintenance (changing air filters and spark plugs and checking oil levels.
Battery-operated mowers run anywhere from $275 to $800 or more, depending on whether they feature options such as self-propulsion. Gas mowers are among the most expensive, starting around $350 and as high as $850 or more for a self-propelled gas mower.
The expense of operating the mower:
Corded electric mowers will use $15-22/yr in electricity, depending on how often you mow. Battery-operated mowers will cost $11-18/yr in electricity to charge the batteries. Gas mowers use approximately $20-35 of gasoline per year, depending on how often you mow and the price per gallon of gasoline.
Choosing the right mower ultimately depends on the size of your yard, and whether you prefer sheer power over a more budget-friendly and eco-friendlier machine.
Note: Chet loves his new EGO battery operated mower.
Many of us are most concerned about intruders at bedtime. Possible break-in threats can sometimes cause enough anxiety to prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. A good home security system is a great deterrent, but here are a few home hacks that can slow them down even more and help you sleep better at night:
Install an alarm system...There are so many to choose from at all price points, there truly is a system for everyone.
Prevent Lock-Bumping...Purchase “anti-bumping specific” door locks or electric or magnet locks for your exterior doors.
Have good lighting...Install motion-detecting lighting at exterior doors and throughout the backyard and put interior lights on timers throughout your home to mimic your schedule.
Deceive intruders...Buy a “Fake TV” Light that flickers and makes them think someone is up late watching television.
Protect vulnerable windows... Research 3M™ window film . It is used to beef up window security by keeping glass from shattering.
Create a burglar decoy...Fill a box with some cash, costume jewelry, and a few papers to shove in your sock drawer. A harried burglar will check the sock drawer in the master bedroom, grab the box, and go.
Add a door brace...Bolt a door brace behind your entryway door. When in the locked position, the bolt helps a door sustain several hundred pounds of blunt force.
Secure sliding doors...Keep a sliding glass door from sliding open with a metal or wood rod to reinforce the door. Add a jimmy plate (latch guard). The plate will prevent a burglar from lifting the door off its tracks.
Add a peephole...A door peephole is a $25 piece of home security gold. It’ll provide a wide-angle view of your visitors so that you can decide to let them in . . . or not.
Install a deadbolt...A single-cylinder deadbolt lock with a 1-inch throw never hurts. But some feel that a deadbolt can be a fire hazard, so perhaps lock it only when you’re asleep or need extra protection.
Install a security storm/screen door...a security door adds an extra layer of protection.
Close your blinds at night...Don’t give burglars a chance to see straight into your home.
Purchase a smart doorbell...We have a Nest and love it. When someone rings your doorbell, you can see them and even talk to them from your phone.
Close the garage door and lock the linking door to your home. A garage door is a common entry point. Try not to keep it open AND lock your car when it is parked in your driveway so no one can use the garage door opener to enter your home.
Use discretion on social media...Don’t let the social media world know that you’re on vacation while your house sits vacant.
I am the Designated Disinfector in our house these days. This article explains how to keep your home healthy. Regular cleaning is great but it does not necessarily reduce bacteria growth on surfaces. You must sanitize, disinfect or sterilize.
Sanitizing is reducing microbial counts (numbers of bacteria and viruses) to safe levels. Disinfecting aims to destroy harmful growing microbes (bacteria & viruses) that can make us sick. Sterilizing aims to destroy all microbes. Typically, you should sanitize high-traffic areas in your house daily (i.e. bathrooms and kitchen) BUT during this pandemic, be sure to disinfectant every day—and if anyone becomes ill in your home, some items may even need sterilizing.
Disinfect surfaces using Clorox Regular Bleach or Clorox Disinfectant Wipes. (I suggest Clorox brand products as they meet COVID-19/EPA Emerging Pathogen Policy standards.) First, wash the surface with soap and water. Disinfect with a wipe, keep surface wet for 4 minutes and then let the surface air dry.
If using a bleach solution to disinfect, either purchase Clorox Clean-Up Spray Cleaner or mix 3/4 c Clorox Regular Bleach in 1 gallon of water. Wash surface with soap and water then disinfect until visibly wet. Let stand 5 minutes, rinse thoroughly with water and air dry.
All items that come in contact with food or mouths must be rinsed with warm water after using a disinfectant on the surface as bleach and other disinfecting solutions are toxic. Air drying is also an important part of the process.
What about using all-natural solutions? While vinegar and lemon juice do affect bacteria populations, they are not considered to be disinfectants. They contain acids that work as an antimicrobial, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. This homemade solution will get your surfaces clean but not disinfect them.
Source: Roxanna Coldiron; Clorox.com
There are many in-home water filtration system options to help purify your water including countertop, faucet-mounted, under-sink or whole-house systems. Costs vary substantially depending on the scope and technology used. If you have well water rather than municipal water, you are advised to have your well tested and look for a system to specifically meet your needs.
Filtration: Filtration systems trap unwanted impurities in the surface or pores of an absorbent medium, such as charcoal filters. If possible, choose a carbon block filter over a granulated activated carbon filter. For even more effectiveness, a Fibredyne carbon block filter is claimed to be the best.
The lowest-cost option is a pitcher with an activated charcoal filter. Faucet-mounted systems are also more economical. Your refrigerator water dispenser likely has a charcoal filter as well, and is an effective source of filtered drinking and cooking water.
Carbon filters typically improve taste and odor but they only reduce (not remove) lead, VOCs, mercury, PFAS & disinfection byproducts. They also can’t remove arsenic, fluoride, nitrate or perchlorate.
Reverse Osmosis: This pricier system uses both an activated carbon filter and a semipermeable membrane that removes impurities including arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrate, perchlorate & PFAS, BUT the major drawback is that it wastes 3-5 times the water it treats. Therefore, you may want to purchase an under-sink unit and limit use to drinking and cooking.
No matter what type of system you choose, be sure to look for brands with certifications from regulatory agencies like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and NSF International. These agencies certify that home water purification systems meet or exceed national drinking water standards.
Lastly, home water purification systems must also be maintained properly. It’s important to follow the manufacturer's recommendations for upkeep, including filter replacement, to ensure that your water is being properly purified.
20+ years of residential experience.