Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mike Holmes: Vacation-Proof Your Home

It's hard to really enjoy a vacation if you're constantly worried about the safety and security of your home. In this article, Mike Holmes talks about vacation-proofing your house, that is, making it safer from burglars and from disasters when you're not around. Everyone knows that he best way to deter burglars is to make it appear like you're at home when you're not. In the olden days, this would mean putting your lights on a timer, but nowadays there are apps that allow you to control your lights from your cellphone. Neighbors can also help you to maintain the appearance of being home by making sure newspapers don't accumulate on your driveway and getting your mail. Mike also recommends some basic but essential maintenance before you leave your home for any extended period of time such as wrapping pipes to ensure they don't freeze and burst. When your home is secure, you can enjoy vacation that much more.
From the Montreal Gazette:  

Mike Holmes: Vacation-proof home while you’re away

Look like you’re there, even when you aren’t

Mike Holmes: Vacation-proof home while you’re away

After a decade, Mike Holmes still cares because he knows the work he, his crew and others do makes a real difference to the people they help.

Photograph by: Alex Schuldt/The Holmes Group , Postmedia News

There’s nothing better than a vacation, and summer’s the time most people seem to take them. But to really relax it’s important to make sure your home is protected while you’re gone. What’s the best way? Look like you’re at home when you’re away from home.
There are plenty of things you can do to protect your home against break-ins. Most people will tell you to install timers on your lights, have your neighbour pick up the mail and let someone park in the driveway while you’re gone.
Then there are the things you need to do to protect your home from potential damage.
For instance, if you’re leaving in winter you should shut off the water and insulate any pipes that pass through cold zones, such as the attic and crawl space, so the pipes don’t freeze and burst.
Or, so you’re not wasting energy you should unplug appliances, set the water heater to low and turn down the thermostat (27 C in the summer, 55 in the winter), and install a surge protector to protect against power surges.
This is all standard stuff to protect your home. But you can do better than standard to secure it properly.
Everyone always says to put your lights on a timer. It’s a good idea. But take it one step further.
You can use a cellphone app to control when the lights come on in your home. This lets you switch up the times, which is important. All it takes is watching your home for a couple of nights for someone to notice the lights always come on at seven and turn off at 10 — so the lights are on, but no one’s home.
And you can’t forget about maintenance, especially on your home’s exterior. It can be a dead giveaway that you’re not home.
If the lawn looks overgrown or branches haven’t been cleaned up after a storm, people will notice.
You might consider hiring a landscaper or neighbour to mow your lawn or clear snow while you’re gone. Ask them to do a quick scan of the exterior after any major storms, to make sure nothing is broken and any debris gets cleaned up. As a precaution, trim trees that can damage your home during high winds.
Also, remember to lock your garage, especially if it’s attached to your house because it can be an easy entry point if not secured properly.
If your garage has a side door, use a deadbolt to lock it from the inside. And if the door has a window, make sure you can’t unlock the deadbolt by breaking the window. Laminated glass, although expensive, is a good option for extra security; it’s strong and heavy, so it offers better protection.
Some home security systems will set off an alarm if a window breaks or a door gets busted, and they’ll notify you on your cellphone, no matter where you are.
If you have a sliding door in your home, you can put a metal bar or a piece of wood on the track. That stops anyone from sliding the door open if they pick the lock. You can do the same for windows too.
But a better option is installing multi-point lock windows and doors.
The multi-point lock windows I’ve used have three locks on the inside that you can’t see or pick.
One last thing about garages: If you have a garage door opener, make sure the door closes completely before you leave.
Most garage door openers have a sensor, so if anything passes underneath the door while it’s closing it automatically goes back up. But sometimes even just some debris on the floor won’t let it close. Make sure it’s fully closed before you leave, or you’ll leave behind an entry point.
Last but not least, don’t go broadcasting that you’re leaving — and I do mean broadcasting.
Social media is fun, but it has risks. It’s amazing how much information people share nowadays.
You can literally track a person just by looking at what they’re posting. Remember: It’s not just your friends that see this.
Going on vacation is supposed to be fun. But you also need to be prepared. When it comes to protecting your home, it’s always better (and cheaper) to be safe than sorry.
Catch Mike Holmes in his new series, Holmes Makes It Right Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit For more information on home renovations, visit

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