Your home is your castle - the place where you feel at ease, comfortable and secure. Home is also where more accidents happen to people than anywhere else. Renovation provides a great opportunity to improve the safety of your home. Building codes and practices have evolved over the years. If you live in an older home built to earlier codes, chances are that there are a number of things you can do to make your home a safer place to live. Not all safety improvements are expensive and time-consuming; many may be modest and simple but can still make a difference. A professional renovator can advise you on possible improvements that can be made to your home. Some may already be included in your renovation plans; it may be cost-effective for your renovator to make other improvements at the same time.
- Hardwiring your smoke detectors into your electrical system eliminates the risk of batteries running low or being "temporarily" removed. This is a simple measure that can save your family and property in case of fire.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector to monitor this colourless and odourless but harmful gas, which is a common by-product of the burning of fossil fuels (e.g. furnace, fireplace, cars) and a risk if equipment is faulty or not installed, operated and vented properly. Like a smoke detector, it can be wired directly into your home's electrical system, or it can be battery-operated or plugged into an electrical outlet.
- Ground-fault circuit interrupters protect you from electrical shock in damp or wet environments. Install these outlets in the bathroom, kitchen and outdoors where exposed to the elements or near swimming pools or hot tubs.
- Too few electrical outlets can result in a tangle of wires and extension cords. People can trip, pull lamps over or pull hot appliances off kitchen counters. Adding outlets can be relatively easy, depending on the condition of your electrical system.
- Make it easy to move safely outdoors at night. Install good lighting outside the entrance door, by stairs, along walkways and at other strategic locations such as your garbage and recycling storage area.
- Check all exit doors and windows. Are they easy to get to and open in the event of an emergency? For older children as well as adults? And have you planned an escape route and discussed it with everyone in the house, just in case?
- Painted exterior stairs and porch floors can be slippery when wet. Adding sand to the paint will give your feet a better grip and prevent falls.
- Older interior stairs may be steep or narrow, with undersized steps. Install a handrail on the wall at the proper height to give all family members, young and old, something to hold on to. Your renovator can recommend an installation that can be removed when you need to move furniture.
- To prevent slipping and falling on stairs, consider well-installed runners or apply an abrasive, non-skid strip on each step. Don't forget about good lighting in the stairwell so you can see clearly.
- Particularly for the little ones in the family, check that railings on stairs inside and out are in good shape, with no loose parts and proper spacing to prevent children from falling through or getting stuck.
- A grab bar next to the tub or shower is helpful to keep both young and old from sliding and falling. Or, if you are redoing your bathroom and don't want a grab bar now, reinforce the wall for a future installation.
- Replace bathroom floor covering with non-slip flooring.
- Rapid changes in water pressure and temperature are common in older homes, depending on how, when and where water is used. This is not only uncomfortable, it can also be hazardous. Pressure-balanced valves for the shower and bathtub prevent scalding in the bathroom by automatically adjusting the flow of hot water, if there is a sudden drop in cold water, e.g. when a toilet is flushed. Other anti-scald devices include faucet aerators, inserts and hot water sensors that shut off the water flow at a certain temperature. You may also be able to lower the thermostat setting on your hot water tank.
Also discuss any security concerns with your professional renovator who can advise you on measures to safeguard against break-ins, from window locks to automated lighting to alarm systems. You want to feel safe and secure in your home.