The other day I saw a meme that had a cat sitting at a table drinking Brandy. The cat said: “You bring a tree into the house, put a bunch of shiny things on it, and then freak out when I get near it!” “This is why I drink, Karen!” That may or may not have happened but many Americans do bring real trees into their homes to celebrate Christmas. This can create some unknown hazards. So today I would like to bring attention to a few common holiday hazards.
When you bring in a real tree you must keep it watered regularly, this will keep the tree hydrated and may prevent a fire, especially if you have some of those old twinkle lights like Clark W. Grizwold. Another scenario to watch out for is the drunken cat mentioned earlier, or the family dog. If they drink from the tree basin, this can cause the tree to dry out prematurely. I know our dog Chase would for sure, not sure about the other 4. Here are some other helpful hints with regard to trees:
- 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.
- Make sure the base is steady so the tree won’t tip over easily.
Oh, and one other thing with regard to trees, make sure you measure the area you intend to put it in before you go purchase it, it would be a shame if your neighbor asked you where you are going to put a tree that big.
Children and Pets As mentioned earlier pets can get into trouble around the holidays due to their curious nature, much like children. The list below is a good start to make your home safe for the holiday season.
- Poinsettias are known to be poisonous to humans and animals, so keep them well out of reach, or avoid having them.
- Keep decorations at least 6 inches above the child’s reach.
- Avoid using tinsel. It can fall on the floor and a curious child or pet may eat it. This can cause anything from mild distress to death.
- 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. It is easier to replace a mitten than a child.
- 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.
Miscellaneous items to be aware of during the holiday season:
- Christmas Lights: Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories. Do not overload electrical outlets. Do not connect more than three strands unless the directions indicate it is safe to do so. Connect strands of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires; they should not be warm to the touch.
- Holiday Decorations: Use only non-flammable decorations. All decorations should be non-flammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents. Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace; it can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home, and cause an explosion. If you are going to use an artificial tree, make sure it is flame-retardant.
- Candles: If you use them, make sure they are in stable holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked over. Never leave the house with candles burning. Never put lit candles on a tree. Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame, such as lit candles, lighters or matches.
- Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home. Test the detectors monthly, and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.
I hope you found some value in this post and as always, if you have a home related question, please submit them at: Aaron@Zuehlkeinspections.com.
Aaron M. Zuehlke is the owner and inspector at Zuehlke Inspection Service, LLC, a full-service home inspection company serving Southern Wisconsin. Specializing in Home inspection, Radon Testing, Mold Testing/inspection, Residential Thermal Imaging, and Manufactured Home Foundation Certifications. He also manages several rental properties through Zuehlke Properties, LLC. He can be reached by email at Aaron@Zuehlkeinspections.com or by calling the office at 608-931-7485.