Weekly home help with items on home safety precautions, buying a new toilet, easy Halloween decorations and more.

While keeping your home safe may not top the list of your holiday “to do” list, taking a few extra precautions can go a long way in making sure your season stays merry and bright.


"Taking steps to protect your home during the holidays isn't radically different from what most people should be doing the rest of the year," said Thomas Leman, a retired 27-year veteran of the police force and criminal justice professor at Argosy University Online.


According to the FBI, victims of burglaries suffered a loss of $4.6 billion in property in 2009 alone. Whether you are home or out, take care to close and lock all doors and windows and set alarms.


"The problem is that most people get lured into a false sense of security and tend to let their guard down, thinking that crime won't happen to them," said Leman.


Here are some more safety tips that Leman suggests:


- A simple dowel placed in a sliding glass door or window can be an inexpensive way to secure doors.


"Alarms or closed circuit video surveillance systems are a great and inexpensive way to protect your home.”


- A well-lit and well-groomed home not only shows well, but provides an important measure of safety. Trim branches to 6 feet off the ground and shrubs down to 3 feet to minimize hiding places for burglars.


"The better the lighting in your home and yard, the fewer places there are for criminals to lurk."


- Leaving the box for your new 55-inch flat screen on the curb could also be a call to burglars.


"When it comes to big ticket items and valuables, boxes on the curb can be an advertisement for the new valuables in your home. Take the time to break down boxes and recycle them, or put them on the curb over time and inconspicuously.”


- If you plan on traveling for the holidays, you need to plan ahead for home safety. Opt to have a neighbor collect mail and newspapers, or have your service stopped by calling the post office. Don’t let mail pile up.


"Set your lights and television on timers," suggests Leman, who also advises homeowners to have a neighbor park their car in your driveway intermittently to keep up the appearance that someone is home.


-- ARA


Home-Selling Tip: Turn up the heat


As you know, every detail counts when you are showing an open house. Keep your guests comfortable, cozy and feeling “at home” by controlling the temperature. Open the windows on a nice day, but keep them closed if it is noisy outside. During chilly weather, maintain a warm temperature to encourage buyers to stay, look and linger longer.


-- Century21.com


How To: Buy a new toilet


New technology, better efficiency and modern style have brought drastic upgrades to the standard toilet. New national regulations limit toilets to using no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush, which means you should replace any toilet installed before 1994. Not only will you save money on your water bill, but some municipal districts offer rebates to those who purchase eco-friendly toilets.


While shopping for a new toilet, know the rough-in, which is the distance between the bolted base of the toilet and the wall. The standard sizes are 12, 10 and 14 inches. Consider buying an all-in-one kit that includes the tank, bowl, toilet seat and wax ring. Consider the water flow, size, style and height of the toilet before you purchase it.


-- HomeDepot.com


Did You Know … Bill would require timely short sale responses


A bill that would require lenders to respond to short sale requests within 45 days was introduced to Congress on Sept. 15. The bill, Prompt Decision for Qualification of Short Sale Act 2010, comes after many consumer reports that the approval process often exceeds 90 days, if an answer is delivered at all. Because lenders are not responding to potential short sale buyers in a reasonable amount of time, homebuyers are often forced to walk away from the deal.


-- National Association of Realtors


Home Improvements: Scary decorations, calming prices


Transforming your home into the most haunted house on the block doesn’t have to be hard – or costly. Here are some spooky ideas that are eerily affordable:




Scoop out the inside of tiny pumpkins. Cut four black pipe cleaners in half, and stick four into each side of the pumpkin, bending them like spider legs. Then drop a tea light candle in the middle.

Print out 19th century portraits of adults and children, mount them on cardboard and display them on a mantel above the fireplace. Cover them with fake webbing and candles to create shadows.

Do you have an old mannequin around? Carefully attach a carved pumpkin head and drape it with tattered clothes, gauze or sheets. Keep it in the foyer as a greeter for your guests.

– GoodHousekeeping.com 


Garden Guide: Visit nearby botanic gardens this fall


The fall season brings with it the perfect opportunity to step out of your own garden and visit some of the magnificent gardens around you. There are registered botanic gardens all around the United States that have acres of full blooms right now, as well as changing leaves that will soon fall to the ground. Have a family-fun day at a nearby garden, or take a slow stroll to appreciate all the different species of plants.


Backyard Buddies: Cockroaches may help humanity


Nobody likes a cockroach around their yard or house, but scientists may have found a use for them that could help humanity. As it turns out, these insects have special chemicals in their brains or tissue that kills harmful bacteria like E. coli and MRSA.


When researchers from Nottingham University in the U.K. performed tests on ground up brain and tissue, they found that these insects have the power to kill nearly 100 percent of harmful bacteria, making them immune to infection. More tests are needed to pinpoint exactly what kills the bacteria, which may be able to help humans in the future.


-- ScienceNews.org


GateHouse News Service