7 Easy Ways to Make Your New Home Safer

Couple getting keys to new home.

Getting new keys is one step you can take to ensure that your new home is as safe as possible.

Accidents happen. So do injuries and illnesses.

Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take as a new homeowner to prevent some accidents, injuries and illnesses from happening in your home.

Here are seven things you should do:

1. Get new keys

Just because your home is brand new doesn't mean no one else has a key to your front door. Or your back door or side doors.

In fact, some builders use master keys so their subcontractors can access multiple homes while they're being built, says Derek Christian, owner of Handyman Connection, a handyman service in Blue Ash, Ohio.

To secure your home, you don't need to replace all your door locks, but you should contact a locksmith and ask to have all your locks rekeyed. The locksmith will reset the locks and cut new keys for you. You can buy extra keys from the locksmith or get them made at any hardware store.

2. Test for radon


Radon is a colorless odorless gas. Breathing radon over a prolonged period of time can cause lung cancer.

The only way to find out whether a dangerous level of radon is in your home is to test your radon levels. The test is easy to do with a kit that you can buy online or at any hardware or home improvement store. Be sure to test the lowest level of your home that you intend to use regularly. If you discover high levels of radon, you'll need to make some modifications to your home to mitigate this problem.

A good resource for more information is "Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide To Radon," a booklet published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

3. Find your main water supply


Shutting off the water supply to your home involves more than just closing all the taps. You'll also have to shut the valve that allows water to flow in from the main underneath your street.

Here's an example of why knowing how to shut the main is important: Suppose a carpenter was installing baseboard in your new home. He drove a nail and because the water wasn't on, he didn't realize the nail punctured the plumbing behind the baseboard. Within a few months, the nail rots and then water pours out into your home.

"People think they can dry the baseboard with towels. The water is behind the tile, beyond the baseboard. What happens next? Mold," says Cindy Stumpo, founder and CEO of Stumpo Development, a custom home builder in Newton, Mass.

Mold isn't just fuzz on old fruit. Inside a home, it can cause a variety of health ailments.

To shut off the main and stop the flood as quickly as possible, you'll need to know where the valve is. It's probably in your basement or outside your home near the street. If you can't locate it yourself, ask your builder or a neighbor to help you.

4. Flush your plumbing

Another new home safety concern involves plumbing that hasn't been used for a while. Even if your home is brand new, water that enters from the main has to pass through older pipes and water that's inside your plumbing can become stagnant and unhealthy.

"When we build a new house, we take (the plumbing system) from the sidewalk to the new home, but we're still dealing with the old pipes in the street," Stumpo says.

Two systems to run are steam showers and Jacuzzi tubs. Keep the tap open until any standing water that may contain rust or viruses is flushed out.

5. Light your staircase

Two-story homes offer significantly more living space on smaller lots. But they come with a necessary hazard: the staircase.

Staircases can be especially dangerous for small children or elderly adults and the hazard increases in the dark.

"A kid is small, not used to the house and trying to get to mommy and daddy's room. They get scared, don't see the staircase and fall down it," Stumpo says.

To help prevent such accidents, use plug-in nightlights around the top of your staircase so it's visible at night. Lighting along hallways and down the staircase is also smart to have.

6. Maintain your fireplace

Fireplaces add light, warmth and architectural pizzazz to many new homes. But if they aren't properly maintained, fireplaces can be unsafe.

Smoke, water vapor, gases, unburned particles and other materials can build up inside a chimney. If the temperature gets hot enough, this buildup can combust, causing damage or injuries, says the Chimney Safety Institute of America, a nonprofit organization in Plainfield, Ind.

"For wood-burning fireplaces, a yearly chimney cleaning can eliminate loose debris, buildup and associated safety risks," says Stephanie Windon, director of marketing at Sabal Homes, a home builder in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. "Carbon monoxide detectors are a must in every home and should be located near a gas fireplace. An annual appointment with a licensed gas technician is recommended as well."

7. Separate your toxics


A garage or basement can also be a desirable feature in a new home. While garages and basements might not be hazardous, what you might have in them can be.

"Homeowners should do a regular check of all the items in their garage that contain chemicals or flammable liquids," Windon says. "Make sure packaging is intact and containers are placed away from nonhazardous household items, such as paper products and outdoor decor."

Follow these steps and you'll be able to rest assured that your new home is safer for yourself, your family and your guests.
Marcie Geffner is an award-winning freelance reporter, book editor and blogger whose work has been published by a long list of financial, mortgage and banking websites, trade magazines and newspapers. You can find her on Google+.

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