Fireworks Beautiful but Potentially Dangerous

Tips to keep it safe

With Independence Day right around the corner, you might be thinking picnics, parades, and fireworks shows. As fun as fireworks are, they are dangerous. Think about it: fireworks are little exploding devices. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2016 there were 11,100 people who were injured and treated in emergency rooms for firework related injuries. And of the firework-related injuries, more than 69% of them were burns.

Fireworks are beautiful, but they’re also dangerous. Every year, fire departments across the country prepare for their busiest time of year. “We have already increased coverage for the weekend in anticipation of fireworks-related fires and injury,” tells Grand Rapids Firefighter Matthew Gonzalez. “There are too many risks associated with fireworks that all homeowners want to avoid.”

It Might Cause a Fire

Fireworks are not a misnomer.  You will certainly be working with fire, and one wrong move is all it takes to start a fire.  The chance of starting a fire multiplies if the climate is dry, and especially increases if there are fire warnings to begin with.  Even something as innocent as simple sparklers can set off a fire, if you don’t properly make sure that the flame is out before you throw them away.

In 2013, in the United States alone, fireworks caused an estimated 15,600 reported fires, including 1,400 total structure fires, 200 vehicle fires, and 14,000 outside and other fires, according to the  National Fire Protection Association. These fires resulted in an estimated $21 million in direct property damage. More than one-quarter (28%) of fires started by fireworks in 2009-2013 were reported on Independence Day. Almost half (47%) of the reported fires on the Fourth of July were started by fireworks

Stay Away in General

The most common cause of fireworks-related injuries is being too close.  When you light a firework, it explodes. 

While sparklers might seem like the “wimpiest” or least dangerous, they actually burn at temperatures around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  “You have to keep fireworks, especially sparklers, away from kids, they burn as hot as a blowtorch,” Elliot F. Kaye, Consumer Products Safety Commission Chairman said.  This is hot enough to melt many types of metals and cause significant burns. If you give one to your child, make sure you can provide constant supervision to ensure that they don’t get too close.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports 230 people on average go the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday. In 2013, there were eight deaths and an estimated 11,400 consumers who sustained injuries related to fireworks. Sixty-five percent, or 7,400, of the injuries in 2013, occurred in the 30 days surrounding July 4, 2013, according to CPSC‘s latest data.

Homeowners’s coverage

Does your home insurance cover fireworks injuries and damage? The answer is complicated, according to Insurance.com. Most home insurance policies provide several different types of protection — each with varying payout limits. Also, there are different types of accidents.

If you’re shooting off illegal fireworks and set fire to your house, you may not be covered. Most policies exclude damage resulting from illegal acts or when you purposely caused injury or damage. If you get into a bottle-rocket war and injure someone, you may not be covered because the incident was intentional. Always follow Michigan law when using fireworks to better your chances of insurance and avoidance of injury.

While it may be fun to host a firework show in your own backyard, sometimes it’s best to leave it to the professionals. With so many reported injuries and fires, protect your family from risk and avoid home fireworks. “If you don’t know how to safely light fireworks or you’re unsure, just don’t do it,” says Gonzalez. From the Grand Rapids Fire Department and the Home Builders Association team, have a fun and safe Fourth of July!

If you can’t live without shooting fireworks off here are some tried and true safety tips to review. It could save you from a trip to the hospital!

Never Let Children Play with Fireworks

  • Don’t let young children play with firework. The CPSC recommends that children under 5 not handle any fireworks.
  • Don’t let children use sparklers or any other form of firework without close supervision. Sparklers can burn at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit! Be very careful!
  • Don’t let children ignite fireworks either.

 Use the Fireworks According to their Directions

  • Always read the directions for the fireworks before use
  • Review your local laws on firework usage
  • Only use fireworks outdoors in a cleared area
  • Light only one firework at a time and quickly move away after lighting
  • Wear safety glasses when setting off fireworks
  • Make sure to have a bucket of water or a hose ready in case you need to put out a firework
  • Never set off any illegal explosives. Report them to your fire or police department
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket

 Dispose of Fireworks Safely

  • Do not relight “dud” fireworks. If it does not go off, wait 20 minutes and then place the firework in a bucket of water.
  • When disposing of fireworks, wet them before placing them in a metal trash can away from any buildings or combustible materials.

 Keep an Eye Out For Your Pet

  • Do not bring your pet to a firework show, even if they are cute.
  • If you are setting off fireworks at home, put them inside your home or in a crate away from the explosives.
  • Make sure your pet has the proper ID just in case they run off during the fireworks.
  • Do not launch fireworks, or anything of the like, near your pet

 Other Things to Keep in Mind

  • Avoid buying fireworks with brown paper packaging. This may be a sign that the fireworks were produced for professional use.
  • Never point a firework at another person
  • Do not drink alcohol when using fireworks. Alcohol impairs judgment and it can be unsafe.
  • Instead of setting off fireworks at home, consider going to your local fireworks show and enjoy them there. It’s safer than doing fireworks in your backyard.

Ultimate Lighting Guide

2018 Spring HBA Parade Home by Tim Schollaart Builder

Pick the Right – Fixtures for Every Room in Your Home

For so many of us, lighting is an afterthought in our interiors. This happens when you think of it as a utilitarian detail of the room, rather than something that adds aesthetic value. When it’s done right, lighting is the unsung element that brings your design to the next level.

Know your options

One of the most common lighting mistakes people make is assuming that one type of lighting — especially dreaded overheads — will suffice when putting a room together. Interior designers will be the first to tell you that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth.

In reality, lighting works best when it’s used in layers. There are three main types of indoor lighting to consider and, ideally, each room will include all of them. They are:

Ambient, also known as general lighting, ambient light fills the majority of the room and allows you to move around safely. It usually comes from recessed lighting, track lighting or wall-mounted fixtures.

Accent lighting is used to highlight a particular focal point, such as a piece of wall art. Picture lights, wall-mounted-fixtures or track lighting are common, and dimmers are often used on these features to provide mood lighting.

 Task lights are used to assist you in completing a particular function. This could be anything from desk lamps to pendant lights that hang over a kitchen island.

Let the room dictate the layout

2018 HBA Parade Home by Tim Schollaart Builder

Now that you know what your different lighting options are, it’s time to decide how — and where — to place your light sources in each room. While this is ultimately a matter of personal preference, there are some standard layouts that work well.

If you’re unsure where to start, use these room-by-room guides as a source of inspiration:

Start with a dramatic pendant light or chandelier overhead in the entryway. Then, supplement with either a table or floor lamp.

The living room is a good place to use track or recessed lighting throughout. If your room has a main seating area, use a larger, overhead fixture to center it. Place floor lamps where needed to light shadowy corners. Finally, if you have a buffet or other large furniture piece, you may want to consider adding a table lamp.

The dining room is the easiest room to light. Your main source should come from a large, pendant light or chandelier that’s centered over the dining table. If there are additional dark corners, you can use a floor or table lamp to supplement.

Kitchen lighting is complex. You may want to start with some recessed lighting. Focal areas like the kitchen island and dining table should have overhead pendants or chandeliers. Work areas benefit from the addition of under-cabinet lighting. Plus, you could add specific task sources at the sink and stove.

Ideally, bedrooms have a main, overhead light source and table lamps on nightstands or dressers.

Recessed lighting is common in the bathroom. You could also add task lights around a mirror or, for a dramatic touch, an overhead source above the tub.

Start with recessed lighting or a main, overhead source in an office. Be sure to add table or floor lamps in dark corners or by seating areas. Finally, be sure to use a desk lamp in your main work area.

Consider size and aesthetics

When we talk about the size of lighting fixtures, we’re mainly talking about those statement pieces that are overhead. There is an easy formula for determining how big one of these lights should be. It’s all about finding the right diameter.

If the fixture will be lighting the whole room, measure the length and width of the room and then add those two numbers together. Convert that sum from feet to inches to find the ideal diameter for your light source. For example, if the room was 10 ft. x 12 ft., 10 + 22 = 22, so your fixture should be 22 inches in diameter. However, if you’re centering the fixture over a piece of furniture, you’ll want to measure the length and width of that specific item instead of the room as a whole.

As far as aesthetics are concerned, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That said, make sure it matches whatever style is present throughout the rest of the room.

The right lighting can really make or break a room. When done well, it lends the perfect atmosphere to help your design shine, but when done poorly, it can take away from your chosen aesthetic.

Have Questions? Ask the Builder

Heartland Builders LLC 2018 Spring HBA Parade Home

Rich Kogelschatz, CAPS, CGB, Heartland Builders LLC

It’s natural to have questions and changes when building a custom home. Prevent surprises and delays by getting answers from the top.

There are lots of things homeowners can do to keep their building project running smoothly. Number one is making timely product choices, but another key action is to direct all change requests and questions, no matter how small, to the builder or the builder’s representative (usually the project superintendent).

It can be tempting to ask workers to make small changes, but doing so can create stress and misunderstanding. For instance, a homeowner may ask an electrician to move the junction box for a wall sconce a few inches to one side. Simple, right? Maybe, but the electrician may have to ask the framing carpenter to add blocking at the new location, or to move a wall stud that’s now in the way.

The problem is not the change itself but the fact that the framer has to bill the builder for the additional time and materials. If the builder passes this to the homeowners, they could see it as an extra charge they hadn’t agreed to.

Another example is the homeowners who ask the architect or kitchen designer rather than the builder to change the spec for the kitchen tile. If the builder is the one responsible for ordering this item but doesn’t get the information in time, the wrong tile might show up.

Going directly to the builder with each change request ensures that the homeowners learn the cost ahead of time, so they can decide whether that cost is worth it. If they say yes, they will feel a lot better about the final bill.

So it is clear why change orders should go to the top, but why can’t the homeowner just ask tradespeople informational questions?

The answer is that these subcontractors may not have all the facts. Say the homeowner wants a different type of showerhead, but before approaching the builder casually asks the plumber how much that model usually costs. The plumber may give a ballpark cost without knowing all the other variables, creating an unrealistic expectation in the homeowner’s mind. It’s best to go to the builder, who will contact the supplier (or send the homeowner to the plumbing showroom) and then apply all markups and discounts.

The point is that, on well-run jobs, workers and subs defer to the builder. In fact, most tradespeople prefer not to be asked a lot of questions because it puts them in an awkward position: they want to be polite to the homeowners and provide good service, but they also work for the builder and are committed to following the builder’s policies.

A custom home has a lot of moving parts and keeping them all moving in the same direction is easier with one person at the wheel. That’s why it’s crucial to use the builder as the primary contact. Doing so ensures a happier experience for everyone.

Top 5 Tips to Enjoy your Summer Barbecue

If enjoying your home in the summertime includes a barbecue on your patio or deck, follow these five safety tips for your grilling equipment and the food you will be cooking.

  1. Location Always Matters

Maintaining an adequate distance between the grill and the outside wall of the house is important to reduce the chance of fire. Gas and charcoal grills should never be used indoors, in closed garages or on enclosed patios and balconies. Not only is fire a threat in these areas, the toxins released by the charcoal can be dangerous.

You should also check local regulations. Some towns and counties impose restrictions on where you can use, or even store, your gas or charcoal grill. For example, it is against the law in some places to use a grill on a wooden deck or a patio that is covered by a deck.  

Make sure the grill is placed on a level floor so it won’t tip, and set it away from any potentially flammable objects like cars, lawn mowers, gas tanks or compost heaps. Keep a clear walking path from the grill to the eating area so there is no danger of tripping and knocking down the grill.

  1. Don’t Play with Fire

Always keep a fire extinguisher handy for any emergencies and keep an eye on children in the area. Curious little ones might be tempted to put their fingers and hands on hot grill surfaces or barbecuing utensils, or could knock over a hot grill, causing significant injury or creating a fire hazard.

  1. Prepare Your Food with Caution

Proper preparation of the food you are cooking is key. To avoid contamination, handle raw meat carefully. Keep it separate from other foods and never reuse a plate on which raw meat has been placed. Wash your hands in warm, soapy water after handling raw meat and clean all surfaces and utensils that touch raw meat with hot, soapy water before using with other food. Meat should be thawed on a plate in the refrigerator or microwave oven, not at room temperature.

  1. Take Your Food’s Temperature

Food should be cooked to a safe internal temperature — judged by using a food thermometer — to destroy harmful bacteria. Don’t simply judge its doneness by how brown it is on the outside. According to the USDA Blog, whole poultry should reach an internal temperature of 180°F; chicken breasts, 170°F. Hamburgers made of ground beef should reach 160°F; ground poultry, 165°F. Beef, pork, veal and lamb steaks, roasts and chops can be cooked to 145°F.

Don’t let food sit out for more than an hour in weather above 90°F and promptly refrigerate any leftovers in shallow containers. Discard any food that has been sitting out for more than two hours in weather cooler than 90°F. For more information, visit www.fsis.usda.gov or call 800-535-4555.

  1. Protect Your Feast from Bugs

After you’ve grilled the perfect hamburger you’ll want to relax and enjoy eating it. That means keeping the bugs away. To help lessen insects’ intrusion on your picnic, keep sweets and sodas covered and capped and eat while it is still light to avoid mosquitoes in the evening. Use spray repellent, mosquito coils or citronella-laced candles or torches to help keep the pests away.