Simple ways for parents to childproof their homes

Posted1/4/2013 4:47 AM

Childproofing your home is a way to protect your children, and yourself, from danger. Some of these things might be obvious, but other precautions could be things you hadn't considered -- but should.

Try some or all of these tips to make your home safer for everyone.

Years ago, we talked to an expert who showed us how to see things from a kid's point of view. You need to get down on all fours and see what things are within your reach. You'll spot areas of concern you hadn't seen before.

• Curtain pulls have been considered dangerous for years, and they are being designed differently now. If yours still are looped, make sure they are out of reach or, better yet, disconnect them and tie knots in the ends to prevent harm. You can still use them.

• Remove or secure anything that is hanging over the edge of a table and could be pulled off, like lamps/cords. Cover all exposed electrical outlets with covers or guards to prevent accidental shocks.

• Use locks or latches on cabinets and drawers. Even if you have security latches, you should remove chemicals, drugs, cleaning supplies and the like to safer and more secure places. Disable door locks by covering them with tape or rubber bands.

• You can slip a scrap of foam-pipe insulation around the edge of a door to keep it from closing. Slip this same type of insulation around sharp furniture edges, too.

• Baby gates are good at sealing off whole rooms or stairs, and some are even attractive these days.

It's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to home safety, especially when kids are involved!

Bulletin board material

A really neat and unique way to create a bulletin board in your shop or home is to use metal. You can buy a sheet of thin metal at your home center. You might even have a scrap lying around if you are lucky. It just needs to be "ferrous" so that magnets will stick. Use refrigerator magnets or make some yourself to hold your notes, receipts, patterns and other goodies. These can be put in lots of places, inside the shop or inside your home!

Silence the thumping

As much as we love having washers and dryers, we don't want to hear them when they are washing and drying. One way to quiet a loud washer is to make sure it's level. Use a bubble level in all directions, and adjust the front feet by screwing them in or out to raise or lower each side of the washer. Sometimes it's just because they are pushed together and knock up against each other. If this turns out to be the case, slide a pool noodle or a scrap or two of foam-pipe insulation between them to act as a bumper. Now, that's better!

Super hints

• Stiff electrical tape can be revived by setting it in the microwave and turning it on high for about 15 seconds. This works on some other tape, too, so give it a shot before throwing the tape out. Just don't use metal tape!

• If you have put your mower up for the season, you should have drained the gas tank. Gas left in the tank through the winter will cause damage to the carburetor. Make sure you also use up the gas in the can. It will not be good by the time you want to use it next spring. It is fine for your car, but not for your mower or weed trimmer. Consider using a fuel stabilizer next spring when you do start using gas again for your mower. This stuff really helps your fuel stay fresh longer.

• If your downspout is down, add a length of chain to the eave under the opening in the gutter. The rainwater will disperse as it hits the chain so water won't puddle up in the area just under the gutter opening.

Q. We have a wet bar with a slate countertop. The surface has a white spot on it where a plant leaked water for a while. I would like to know if I can remove the white spot. What should I do?

A. The stain might respond to warm vinegar. Cut it 50 percent with water, and use a soft cloth to rub it into the finish. If this removes the stain, neutralize it with water when finished and then apply a coat of oil furniture polish. This will protect the surface from future stains.

Q. Our garage is an attached garage and, even though the door is weatherstripped, you can still hear the noise from my shop inside the house. Is there any other way to soundproof the door?

A. It might be possible to install some acoustical material on the garage wall between your house and the garage -- even carpeting would work. If you don't already have insulation in that wall, you can add it. Check the door to make sure it's a solid-core door. If it is a hollow-core type, you should replace it. You'll see an immediate difference in the sound and insulation properties.

Q. Our wood floors squeak quite a bit. I can hear them squeak more in the winter than during the summer. Is there an easy way to resolve this issue?

A. This can be a common problem. One that might help is to sweep a little talcum powder into the cracks. This acts as a lubricant to quiet the squeaks. Using extra adhesive or finishing nails is a more permanent fix, but can be hard to do from the top surface. If you can get a syringe of adhesive into a crack, you can put glue under the floor and press it into place. The headless-finish nails can be driven in and puttied over to conceal them.

Reader tips

• We have four bar stools in our kitchen. One started to squeak, and we thought we would replace them all. But they are a lot more expensive than I figured. Then I found a replacement swivel unit for about $10 online. I bought it and replaced the old one with this and you can't even tell which one was the squeaker. I think you can find just about anything online.

• I used to use yellow plastic gloves when working in the yard and on messy projects. These gloves are the same type one uses in the kitchen. They work well and last a long time, but I have made the switch to disposable latex gloves. They are so much easier to use and fit better. I can buy a whole box of them at a time, and it's very cost-effective since a box lasts longer than a couple of pairs of the others. I also like the ease of being able to just throw them away instead of having to try to clean them.

• I love to work in my shop. I've also bought an old car and have started restoring it. This has created a whole new kind of dirt in my shop. Oil, grease and gasoline get spilled, but I have found a great way to pick them up quickly. I grab some sawdust, which usually is in a box next to my workbench, and dump it on the wet spill to soak it up. If I don't have that, a pile of newspapers is always nearby in the recycling bin. Both will absorb most of these spills really well and I can easily sweep them up and throw them away.

• We installed a butcher block island several years back. My wife loves it, but it has started to stick, and it has some stains on it. She didn't want to use bleach to clean it, so we tried an alternative first. We got some lemon juice and table salt and rubbed it clean. This worked pretty well on most of the stains, and it even smells better, too.

• I don't know what my problem is, but I like to change around the furniture in my home often. I just like a fresh look every other month or so. I created some wonderful "mats" to put under the legs of the heavy pieces so they don't scratch up my wood and tile floors. I got some old carpet scraps and cut them into small squares. I put them under the legs, fuzzy side down, before sliding stuff around. It does a great job, and they were free, so no cost!


• A very common area for roof leaks is around vent pipes. A new solution called Perma-Boot is a super solution. The installation is very simple and fits right over existing vent boots. It doesn't require any tools and no shingle removal. In fact, you can install one in just a few minutes and do your whole house in one afternoon. It's designed to fit standard roof pitches and is guaranteed for the life of your shingles. It's virtually maintenance-free and is available at a wide variety of hardware stores and home centers, including Lowe's and Home Depot. To see it in action and find out if it might work for you, go to They are even made in the U.S.!

• Repairing and sealing cracks in concrete just got easier with Slab by Sashco. It's very elastic, even in extreme temperatures, spans gaps up to 3 inches wide and lasts for a long time. It's water-based, so it's easy to clean up yourself and tools, low-VOC and even looks more like concrete. It has a neat stop-flow plunger for less waste and less mess. It even has a limited lifetime warranty. To find out more or to find a local dealer, go to and look for Slab.

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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