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Spooky Vacations

Haunted Hotels, Inns, Castles and more!

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Today thrill seekers can go skydiving, cliff jumping, white water rafting or paragliding, just to name a few. Looking for a little adventure in your blood but it's too wet outside to play? Why not snuggle indoors and thrill your imagination with a haunted vacation? Many hotels, inns, and even castles offer spooky weekend getaways. Perhaps a friendly ghost will fold your clothes and lay them out on the bed; a mischievous one might turn on the lights and radio at 2AM; or perhaps one with a chip on his shoulder might give you a little bump to remind you he's there. You might find it a good laugh or a little fun to shake up the winter humdrums. Below we have compiled a short list of some haunted places to stay. We have tried to collect from across the US and added in a few international destinations just in case you want a ghost with an accent! Enjoy and have some fun! International Haunts: Ireland: Ross Castle | United Kingdom - England: The Feathers Hotel Wales: Ruthin Castle **Many haunted houses seem to get their start from murder or untimely death. Although we have not gone into graphic details here, please note that if you follow any of the links to the right, some of these sites do go into much more (sometimes gruesome) detail! 17-Hundred-90 Restaurant & Inn - Savannah, GA The History: This inn was actually built in 1820, not 1790. First a boarding house and later an inn, this home has had many owners and guests. One of these guests was Anne Powell. The legend says she was unhappily married at 16 years of age to an Englishman. She fell in love with a German sailor who left her "in the family way." She watched his boat sail away and then committed suicide by jumping from the window, landing on the brick pavement below. The Haunting: Anne Powell is the most famous ghost, believed to haunt guest room 204 from where it is said she jumped to her death. She doesn't seem to be a menacing spirit: she sits beside the fire, lays out guests' clothes on the bed or plays pranks on guests waking them up in wee hours of the morning by setting off the radio alarm. Another ghost in the basement kitchen and restaurant doesn't like women very much and likes to shove them around. But this ghost is countered by the ghost of a merchant marine who will help the staff turn the lights off at closing. How to see it: Savannah ghost tours stop here for a drink but you can go to the restaurant yourself and have a bite to eat. Or if you really dare, spend the night instead - ask for room 204! Brumder Mansion - Milwaukee, WI The History: George Brumder had the home built in 1910 for his son, George Jr. After they sold the home, the house was everything from a boarding house to an activity center for a Lutheran church. They used the home for office space, a theater, and later opened a coffee house with a live music venue. The current owners purchased the home in 1997 and opened the renovated space as a B&B in 1998. The Haunting: The Gold Room was once the room for one of the Brumder daughters who never married after being spurned in love early in life. She is said to still stay in the room, in fact she was quite appalled and upset when the current owner spent the night in this room with her dogs - no dogs allowed! Your dreams will be haunted if any dogs sleep on the bed! How to see it: It's a Bed & Breakfast, so take the plunge and spend the night - request the Gold Suite! You can even join a ghost hunting seminar or enjoy a haunted history dinner! For more information, click here. The Carolina Inn - Chapel Hill, NC The History: Owned by UNC, this inn was built by a UNC graduate in 1924. Throughout its history it has been used by the campus to host conferences, guests and alumni. Today the proceeds from the inn are given to the university library. The Haunting: Professor William Jacocks likes to haunt room 252. Although guests do claim to have encounters with the professor, the hotel staff say he has never frightened anyone to the point of packing their bags and running. Instead he is a friendly ghost who plays pranks such as holding the doorknobs so rooms won't open, rustling papers, and making the occasional noise. Some claim there are additional ghosts walking the halls and looming over their shoulder, but always more curious than menacing. How to see it: You can spend the night in this historic hotel Crescent Hotel - Eureka Springs, AR The History: Founded in 1886, the Crescent Hotel started its career as a sleek and elegant hideaway for the Victorian wealthy. However, not able to stay afloat the hotel closed. It was reopened in 1908 as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women. But this school closed in 1924. In 1937 it was opened as a hospital and health resort. Norman Baker claimed to have a cure for cancer but was met with scrutiny as it came to light that he had no medical education. He was later imprisoned on mail fraud. It wasn't until 1946 that efforts were made to reestablish the hotel. The Haunting: Perhaps the fresh spring water under the hotel attracts spirits thirsting for a little human interaction. This hotel has many different haunted areas from guest rooms, to the lobby, to the grounds. Guests have seen a women in the hall, a tall man knocking on the doors, and former cancer patients and nurses to name a few. A long list of guest experiences can be found at the hotel's ghost website. How to see it: The hotel offers history tours for groups of 10 or more. Ghost tours are available by Eureka Springs Ghost Tours. Driskill Hotel - Austin, TX The History: Jesse Lincoln Driskill opened this hotel in 1886. The hotel was grand and luxurious, funded by his success as a cattle baron. In 1888, the family lost its fortune due to drought and a cold winter that killed most of the cattle. The hotel then changed from owner to owner with the most recent change of hands in 1995. The Haunting: Driskill is claimed to still wander the hotel, puffing cigar smoke while he turns lights on and off. There is the ghost of a small girl, daughter of a Senator who was left unattended and fell to her death while playing with her ball - she can still be heard bouncing the ball today. How to see it: The hotel is open to guest today and offers all kinds of pampering. The Feathers Hotel - Ludlow, Shropshire, UK The History: The original building was built in 1619 and has been added to and modified since. First a private residence, it was changed to an Inn in 1670 after the English Civil War and would remain one for the next 200 years! In 1863 it changed to a hotel and started to acquire more land and expand. Why feathers? There are faded motifs of ostrich feathers on the outer woodwork still visible. They were a symbol of the Prince of Wales and "en vogue" at the time of construction. Not to mention the town of Ludlow was royalist even during the English Civil War. The Haunting: There is a female "guest" in room 211 who is known to bother women rather then men in the room, pulling their hair and letting them know they are not welcome. There are a couple gentlemen ghosts roaming about including one who is accompanied by his ghost dog! How to see it: You can join on a ghost hunting adventure either with Eerie Evenings or Haunted Breaks. Or you may opt to spend the night and enjoy the historic surroundings. Heceta House - Yachats, OR The History: This house accompanies a lighthouse on the Oregon coast built in 1894. Many families occupied the house complex over time which included a post office, school and the light house. But it is only the keeper's house that has tales of hauntings. Many believe this is the mother of child who fell off the cliffs back at the turn of the century. The Haunting: The ghost named Rue is said to be an extra caretaker of the house. She makes it known if she is displeased with any activity in the house. One of the more humorous accounts was of her screaming in the middle of a card game, she didn't want them playing cards in her house! How to see it: This house is now a bed and breakfast. It also has guided tours from its interpretive center. Although the current owners don't play up and advertise the ghost they have said guests have told them of strange encounters. Hotel Del Coronado - San Diego, CA The History: Babcock and Story built this resort to be the "talk of the Western world" in 1888. Since then it has been visited by presidents, foreign dignitaries, celebrities and heroes like Charles Lindbergh and Thomas Edison. The hotel was famous as a backdrop for "Some Like It Hot" starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The Haunting: According to the hotel website, the tales of ghosts started with the untimely death of Kate Morgan. She was a guest in November 1892 that never left. She came to meet her estranged husband but he never showed. Kate was then found dead on the hotel steps leading to the ocean. She had died of a gunshot wound to the head that was officially deemed a suicide but is speculated to this day by some to be a case of murder. She likes to slam doors and randomly turn on the TV. Some have also seen indentation in the sheets as if someone was sleeping there. There are other ghosts in the hotel as well that love to flicker the lights, provide cold spots and make some random noises. How to see it: Of course you can stay at this stunning resort and enjoy the spa, golf course, pool or take some surfing lessons. To find out more click here (Kate's room was 312, then renumbered to 3312 and now to 3327 - check with staff to verify your request). Hotel El Convento - Old San Juan, Puerto Rico The History: This former Carmelite convent named The Monastery of Our Lady Carmne of San Jose was founded in 1651. The nuns left this convent in 1903 and site fell into ruin until 1962 when Robert Woolworth purchased it to make it into a resort. The Haunting: Dona Ana was a noblewoman who lost her husband in the war with the Dutch and then turned to her faith. She donated the land for the Carmelite convent. It is said her spirit and those of nuns can be seen about the grounds and gliding through the halls. How to see it: For information about how to enjoy a luxurious stay with these faithful spirits Jerome Grand Hotel - Jerome, AZ The History: Built in 1926, this building was originally the United Verde Hospital. The hospital was built to be fireproof and withstand blasts from the dynamite mining nearby. One of the best hospitals in the west, it unfortunately was phased out when the mining in the area began to slow down and closed by 1950. The building stood empty until 1994; it had been a time capsule having been unchanged for 44 years. It is now being restored as a hotel with many of the rooms already completed and open for guests. The Haunting: Being a hospital, there were many patients that perished in its walls. However, there were deaths of two orderlies that many believed to have been murder. There is also one recorded suicide. When the building lay dormant for 44 years, locals claimed they would still see lights burning in the vacant building. Since being reopen, more paranormal activity has been noticed. The most common is for guests to feel temperature drops and hear coughing or labored breathing in empty rooms or corners of their own guestroom. One ghost is said to be a woman who died in childbirth. She is upset that her child was buried in an unmarked grave and prowls the ground looking for the babe. How to see it: You may stay in the hotel today. Room rates begin at $110 and go up from there. Being the highest point in the Verde Valley, it offers some great views. And if you're lucky, maybe a glance at a ghost or two! Kehoe House - Savannah, GA The History: This home was built in 1892 for William Kehoe and his family. The large family (they had 10 children!) kept the home until 1930. After that the home became a boarding house, funeral parlor, and a private residence. In 1992 the home opened as a B&B, it changed ownership in 2003, but remains an inn with a B&B atmosphere. The Haunting: The main tragedy of the house (that we know of) was the death of the Kehoe twins who died when playing around the chimney. Children can be heard running the halls and some guests have even had children check in on them in their rooms. But if you don't see the children, their mother Annie is reputed to still wander the rooms, making sure to tuck in all the guests at night! How to see it: Why not spend the night? Ask for rooms 201 or 203. Kewaunee Inn - Kewaunee, WI The History: Built in 1912 by William Karsten this inn is still commonly known as the Hotel Karsten. Father and son managed this hotel until William Karsten Jr.'s death in 1964. The hotel then changed hands and received various facelifts. The most recent owners renamed the hotel to the Kewaunee Inn at Hamachek Village in May 2008. The Haunting: The ghosts at the Kewaunee Inn didn't start to bug the living until after renovations started in 1966. The inn website mentions the triad of ghosts include William Karsten Sr, Billy Karsten III (who died at 5 years of age shortly after his grandfather), and Agatha the housekeeper. Agatha seems to be the most active, floating about the halls and popping up behind you when you look in the mirror! She doesn't seem to like men much - so any male guests be on your guard! William likes to have a drink at the bar now and then and Billy still runs up and down the hall playing. How to see it: Brave enough to spend the night? Lemp Mansion - St. Louis, MO The History: This house was purchased by William Lemp around 1864 to use as a residence and office for the family brewery. William's father had used a family recipe/method to create a lager beer. This beer quickly became popular and William's father abandoned his grocery store to become a full time brewer. The beer continued to be made by the family until 1922 when family mishap and prohibition forced them to shut down and sell for good. The mansion itself has a sorrowful history with one brother dying under mysterious circumstances and three other men of the family committing suicide inside. The Haunting: With three suicides one can easily guess where the idea of ghosts haunting the mansion started. However, the families odd history also adds fuel to the imagination. There is the rumor that William Lemp had an illegitimate son with down syndrome who was kept hidden in the mansion attic his whole life. He is now said to be seen haunting the mansion and has the nickname "Monkey Face Boy." Tales of haunting first started after 1949 when the mansion was sold and turned into a boarding house. Strange knocking and footsteps throughout the mansion scared the tenants away so the house started to run into disrepair. In 1975, the mansion was saved and renovated and turned into a restaurant and inn. All types of sights and sounds have continued and are still reported today. How to see it: Spend the night! Or take a tour if you're too scared... The mansion is a bed and breakfast that offers tours and a restaurant to those who don't want to spend the night. They also host a Halloween Party and Murder Mystery Dinner Theater. Lizzy Borden House - Fall River, MA The History: As with so many haunted homes, this story begins with a murder. On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered by ax in their home. Their eldest daughter, Lizzy, was tried and latter acquitted of the murders. However, she was ostracized from the community for the rest of her life. Some consider that she had a split personality, even those close to her recall erratic and violent behavior. And of course there was the creation of the rhyme: Lizzie Borden took an ax Gave her mother forty whacks; When she saw what she had done Gave her father forty-one! The Haunting: There is a strange woman who tucks guests into bed and perhaps the same woman can be heard weeping in the night. Objects move on their own and electrical equipment such as lights and cameras have some interference. Many claim the most active room is Lizzy's old bedroom - which you can stay in if you want... How to see it: The home is now a bed and breakfast. You may spend the night, take a tour or even spend a weekend at Ghost Hunter University! Magnolia Mansion - New Orleans, LA The History: This home was built in 1857 by Alexander Harris. After Alexander died of yellow fever his widow remarried and sold the home to the Maginnis family. John Maginnis owned a cotton mill and it was rumored he was struck by lightning because of the cruel way he treated his employees. In 1939, John's daughter inherited the home and willed it to the Red Cross. The Red Cross used the home to train nurses for WWII and the Korean War. In 1954 the home was again sold into private ownership. Magnolia Mansion was renovated in 2001 and opened as a B&B in 2002. The Haunting: When renovating the home, the crew had to stop as an oily substance appeared over the walls. The owner then verbalized her plans for the place out loud so the ghosts would know exactly what she was up to. She told them she was improving the home and the ghosts would not be able to scare the guests away. This appeased them for awhile. However, ghosts are still reputed to slam doors and snuggle into bed with guests on occasion. Many guests have photos of orbs and a few extra faces from their visits as well. How to see it: This adult catering B&B offers a great escape to any non-smoker over 21 years of age. Specializing in romance with Elopement and Wedding packages, the B&B also has fun with their ghosts offering a Romantic Ghostly Getaway Package which includes a room, treats and ghost walking tours. Mason House Inn - Bentonsport, IA The History: This hotel was built in 1846 for steamboat travelers along the Des Moines River. Later, the Mason House was used as a 'holding hospital' during the Civil War for soldiers being transferred to Keokuk. It also served as a 'station' along the underground railroad. The Mason House keeps its name from the Mason family who owned the property for 99 years. The Haunting: Three of the owners have died in the building and there was also one murder in one of the guest rooms. In 1860 poor Mr. Knapp had been drinking and accidentally went to the wrong room. The occupant thought he was being robbed and stabbed Mr. Knapp in self-defense. The home had also been a 'holding hospital' in the Civil War and some patients may have died in the home. Also a Doctor renting a room in the 1940s died in the building. All in all, a great hangout for ghosts. The ghosts come in many forms. There are wisps of fog and cold spots to actual figures who appear and disappear from sight. There is a boy that plays tricks; he likes to rustle sheets and tug at guests as they sleep. There are footsteps, thuds and a woman in white. An abundance of ghosts and paranormal events for all! How to see it: Today you may stay at this B&B for about $80/night ($125 if you are staying in the restored caboose!). Request to stay in the main house on the 2nd floor (rooms 5 & 7) for the best chance of paranormal dreams! Ghost Hunting 101 and 102 classes are also available about twice a year and a Halloween Ghost Walk around Oct 31st. McCune Mansion - Salt Lake City, UT The History: This mansion was built in 1900 by a railroad tycoon named Alfred W. McCune. After leaving for California in 1920, the McCune's donated the mansion to the Latter-Day Saint Church. It was then turned into the McCune School of Music. It later became a Brigham Young University Salk Lake City Center and Virginia Tanner Modern Dance School. In 1999 it was purchased by Phil McCarthy who worked to restore the mansion and open it as a hotel. The Haunting: Music is said to still haunt the McCune halls. A small room under the stairs was used by the McCune's as a stage for hired musicians. The whole house would be filled with music but their guests did not know from where it came. It is said this music still fills the air. Other happenings include doors locking that are not fit with locks, doors opening on their own and lights going on and off on their own. How to see it: You can schedule a tour of the mansion through the Utah Heritage Foundation. Myrtles Plantation - St. Francisville, LA The History: This home was built by David Bradford in 1794 but stories of hauntings did not start until the 1950's. The house had a long history with many different owners. There is only one recorded murder of William Winter in 1871. However, there are many tales that are told about the home to justify the hauntings. Most of these seem to be fabricated tales, but many say that is just because the house is so haunted, people needed to make up some kind of explanation. The Haunting: Among the haunting activity is the ghost of a woman in a green turban who some believe to be the ghost of a slave killed for poisoning the head mistress and her two daughters. Others claim this ghost is not a young slave but an older, unknown woman. There is also a little girl who has appeared as well as a frustrated piano player who continuously practices the same cord over and over on the old piano. How to see it: You can dine in the restaurant, take a tour or spend the night. The choice is up to you. The Queen Mary - Long Beach, CA The History: Her maiden voyage was May 27, 1936 but with the coming of WWII she was refitted and used as a troop ship housing 5500 souls by May 5, 1940. By the end of the war it was used to transport as many as 12,886 war brides and children from Europe to the U.S. and Canada on six voyages in four months. More war bride voyages would follow. It became a cruise ship in 1963. By 1967 it was purchased for Long Beach, CA to act as restaurant and museum with the first hotel rooms opening in 1972. The Haunting: The first class swimming pool has some of the most recorded ghost sightings and noises. Many women dressed in 1930 swimsuits have been sighted. But the spirits like to wander and have been seen in many parts of the ship - especially the engine room where two men were crushed to death by the heavy "Door 13". Those who take the self-guided walking tour of the ship have been spooked more than once! How to see it: Brave enough? Click here to find out how to spend the night or click here to take a tour with Ghost and Legends of the Queen Mary group. The tour is technically enhanced to make certain you get a few jumps and spooks. The hotel also hosts a 'Terrorfest' of haunted mazes on Halloween. Ross Castle - Ross, County Meath, Ireland The History: This area shows record of settlement since the Iron Age. The castle tower was completed in 1537 by Richard Nugent, 12th Baron of Delvin. A family loyal to the English crown for their title and rank hoped to received the extra boon of £10 given as encouragement for each fortification built in Ireland. In time the Nugents began to marry the once rival Celtic nobles especially the O'Reillys. In 1644 the castle was pulverized by Cromwellian soldiers in retribution for Myles O'Reilly's defiance. Restoration was begun by the family in the 19th century and the castle was later modernized with plumbing and electricity. The Haunting: The castle's founder, Richard Nugent was also known as the Black Baron and, you guessed it, he had a reputation for being quite unpleasant. The Black Baron had a beautiful daughter named Sabina who had the unfortunate luck to fall in love with Orwin O'Reilly (at this time still an enemy). Moved by love to give up their home, family and wealth, they decided to elope. However, as they made their escape by boat a storm came up and it capsized. Orwin died but Sabina lived. Crushed with heartache, she pinned away in Ross Castle tower until she finally gave up the ghost which in turn walks the halls to this day. She is said to sometimes be heard screaming! The Black Baron is also rumored to haunt the grounds and can be quite unpleasant. How to see it: Besides ghost hunting, you can go fishing, golfing, horseback riding, sailing, boating, hiking, cycling, go see the races or even take flying lessons! Plenty to do and see in a romantic setting. Ruthin Castle - Ruthin, North Wales, UK The History: Legend has it that the original castle was a wooden fort lorded by Huail. He fought King Arthur and wounded him in the knee. A truce was called but Huail later mocked King Arthur and was beheaded. The first stone structure was put up by King Edward I in 1277 and the castle was owned by the crown off and on until sold by Charles I in 1632. The modern stone structure was built in 1826. However some of the older walls, dungeons and tunnels are still standing today. The Haunting: This castle comes with its own Grey Lady, dating back to the time of Edward I, this ghost was sentenced to death for killing the lover of her husband. Soldiers are said to still march around the grounds and prisoners long dead are still heard moaning in agony. How to see it: If you don't find ghost hunting or random spooks exciting enough, this castle offers other entertainment including medieval banquets (one even with a murder mystery theme!), golf, and romantic getaway packages. The Sagamore - Bolton Landing, NY The History: This hotel was originally built in 1883 to provide a getaway on Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains. This historic building suffered two fires but was reconstructed in 1930. The resort was meant to be a retreat for the wealthy and is still neighbored by palatial mansions across the lake. The Haunting: This hotel has many ghosts including one of a little boy on the golf course! This boy chased balls and sold them when alive. He died in a tragic accident when he was hit by a car running after a ball. Now his shadowy form can be seen running after golf balls on the course. He likes to steal balls and laugh at golfers as they look for them. When they give up he tosses the ball at them, again, laughing. Other ghosts include the guest who come down from the second floor for dinner every night and wait patiently in the reception area before they literally vanish. Then there is the portly cigar smoker in the elevator who may not appreciate the non-smoking policy these days. How to see it: You can stay in the hotel, vacation lodges or a castle (if you have the cash!). Themed getaways are available including the Murder Mystery Weekend Oct 17-19, 2008 The Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, CO The History: Six miles from Rocky Mountain National Park, this hotel has famous views and offers a serene escape. F.O. Stanley created this hotel after moving to the west when forced to by poor health. Besides the hotel he helped to create the sewer, power and water supply for the area. A recent claim to fame is that a stay in this hotel inspired Stephen King's The Shining. The Haunting: Both F.O. and his wife Flora haunt the hotel. They are amicable ghosts that enjoy hanging about the rooms they loved so much such as the Billiard room and Ballroom. Rooms 407 and 418 have reputed activity of lights going on and off, noises and of course rascally kids playing in the nearby hallway. One story relates some guests checked out early as the kids playing in the hall kept them up all night. When the hotel staff looked at the register there were not any kids as guests (at least not any live ones!). How to see it: Not only can you spend the night but you can sign up for a Historic Ghost Tour that tells you all the history that has created a haunted playground. The hotel has fun with the reputation and is hosting 'The Shining Ball' this year on Oct 25 and 31, 2008! The Stone Lion Inn - Guthrie, OK The History: F.E. Houghton built this mansion in 1907. It served most of its years as a residence and later was turned into a funeral home. The only person to die in the home seems to be a young girl who died of whooping cough after receiving the wrong medicine. The Haunting: After turning this mansion into an inn, the new owners woke up at night to the sounds of footsteps and doors opening and closing. They called the police but no intruder was found. Soon after they realized they had their first "guest" who may be a small girl as she likes to take out the toys at night to play. The Story Inn - Nashville, IN The History: This historic inn is located at the boarders of Brown County State Park and Hoosier National Forest. This inn and its collection of buildings is actually what remains of the town of Story that was established in 1851, set up as a lodging community. The Haunting: The Story Inn is haunted by a lady in blue who floats about the second floor of the general store that has been turned into guestrooms. There has also been activity in the restaurant below. A guestbook details the experiences of the spooked over the years. How to see it: Snuggle in for the night. If you don't want a ghost watching over you there are other cabins available in this small community. Thornewood Castle - Lakewood, WA The History: Thornewood Castle was built for Chester Thorne, a successful founder of the Port of Tacoma. This Tudor/Gothic estate was completed in 1911. Inspired by the estates in Britain, the stained glass windows were even imported from a castle in Europe. The castle has many different imports that add to structure and contents of the building. One of the more interesting aspects is the "wishbone sticks" left by the Native American workers who helped in the construction. These sticks help to ward off evil and are found at the foundation in the basement. The Haunting: There are multiple photographs taken of orbs throughout the castle and reports of objects moving on their own. Tape recorders have picked up voices, one of an unknown child. One child did drown in the lake and is said to haunt its shore, perhaps they visit the house as well? Overall, the spirits at Thornwood seem to be a good natured sort. There is not a violent history attached to this home. Although the wife of Mr. Thorne is said to haunt the halls, this is more because she likes the place rather than she is out to get anyone. In fact, some believe Thornwood Castle acts as a vortex and can attract ghosts from the other side. Some guests have reported making contact with loved ones from their lives who have no connection with the castle. How to see it: You may stay in the castle as it is now a B&B. There are Candle Light Tours: for $100 and the cost of a room you can spend the night exploring the haunted halls with a small group of ghost hunters.

Winter Driving

Safety, Tips and the Law

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A little groundhog has told us to expect another six weeks of winter! Already a tough season, many of us experienced firsthand or saw news coverage of winter storms bringing cities and counties to a virtual standstill. Whether you live in a winter weather state or are just visiting, snow and other winter weather can drastically effect your ability to get around and keep to your plans. Learning some basic driving safety measures and coping tips can help alleviate some of the aggravation. Also, although varying by state, understanding winter related laws or ways laws are interpreted to include winter conditions is vital to enjoying a safe winter. Below is some safety information we hope you find useful and keeps you safe and warm this winter.

Winter Driving Safety & Tips

Winter Inspection: Prepare you car ahead of time for winter road conditions. Check the levels of antifreeze, oil and wiper fluid. Examine your windshield wipers for wear and replace them if necessary.

Got Wheels? Review your tire tread. If you get snow tires or studs, get your appointment scheduled before the tire stores are inundated. If you are in a state where you may use chains or cables, inspect these when you pull them out of storage. Take time to review how to put them on before the snow comes.

Journey Prep: Before driving out into a winter wonderland, make sure you are prepared. Clear you car of any snow and ice so you can see clearly - this includes any snow around your headlights and break lights. How much gas is in the tank? If you are getting low, plan your route to make this your first stop. Stop and consider your physical condition, are you awake and alert?

WEK: Don't be weak - have an Winter Emergency Kit! Some items to include in your kit are:

  • First Aid Kit T
  • Travel Tool Kit
  • Blanket(s)
  • Gloves, Hat, Scarf, Sweatshirt, etc.
  • Jumper Cables
  • Flashlight and Spare Batteries
  • Road Flares
  • Matches
  • Sand and/or Salt
  • Ice Scraper and Snow Brush
  • Small Shovel
  • Water
  • Energy Bars or Other High Calorie Foods (Nonperishable)
  • Cell Phone and Charger

Dress for Success: As we hop from one heated building to the next, we don't often consider how we are dressed for the winter weather. Adjust your wardrobe for unexpected winter weather. If you insist on traveling in the car in flip flops because the are comfy, make sure you pack thick socks and hiking boots in the back seat in case your car does break down. Dress in layers and have spare gloves, a hat, and a scarf in the car.

Know before you go! Check for road condition updates and possible closures. Before driving in winter weather make certain to check the local forecast. Some of the key weather words are:

S-L-O-W: Everything slows down: accelerate slower, brake slowly, turn slowly, and travel at slower speeds. Enter the time warp willingly and keep your patience and wits about you. Trying to rush through anything during poor winter weather is the number one reason people slide off roads or skid into other cars.

Personal Bubble: Allow those around you plenty of space. Do not crowd other cars and increase the car lengths between you and the next car.

It's Ice Ice Baby! If there is ice rain the best option is not to be on the road period. But there are other patches of ice and black ice that may pop up when you consider the roads drivable again. Keep in mind that ice forms quickest on bridges and overpasses. Also, as the temperatures begin to rise the thawing ice will be much slicker as it melts. If you see the ice ahead of time keep your speed slow. DO NOT hit the breaks! If you suddenly can't hear the road, often the case if you hit black ice, continue forward and take your foot off the accelerator. DO NOT hit the breaks!

Look Up! Many times the winter weather makes us concentrate on the road in front of us so much that we forget to look ahead. During this weather is exactly when you should be looking up and ahead; look farther then you may normally. This will give you more time to react to possible sliding cars or hazards in front of you.

Keep it on Main Street: Plan your routes on main roads. These will be traveled more and are the first to be cleared and sanded.

Share the Road: Give plows and sanders plenty of space. Three car lengths is the standard suggestion. Be patient, many will get over to let traffic pass. Always pass with extreme caution and never pass them on the right as that is where all the sludge is going!

Double Your Time: As a general rule, double your travel time for all your commutes and usual destinations.

Tell Your Peeps: Let others know of your travel plans - especially for long distances or during a weather event. Let either family or friends know where your are going and the route you expect to take.

No Cruising: As you shouldn't in heavy rain, do not use cruise control on winter roads. If you begin to slide you may not be able to get out of cruise control quickly. Also, depending on the slide/skid, tapping the break may be the last thing you should do!

Find Your Pack: Have a commute group for severe weather. You can alternate drivers as you battle the extra stress and fatigue of driving in bad weather. Encourage it in your community and this can help keep more cars off the road.

Think Outside Your Car: Consider other modes of transportation altogether. If available, consider the bus or train. Get really inventive - do you like to cross country ski? Just stay on the sidewalk!

Flex Time: Check to see if you employer will let you change your hours or work from home. Wait until the plows have had a chance to move through the neighborhood and go in late. Or plug in the computer and work in your PJs and fuzzy slippers.

The Great Melt: Still be cautious after the snow begins to melt away. Puddles can easily be hiding monster potholes that grew under the ice during the storm. Not only jarring these can do some real damage to your car. Besides potholes, be careful of hydroplaning as well. As the water melts it may be caught between mounds of slush leaving the perfect amount of water to send your tires for a little ride.

If the Worst Happens: "If a blizzard traps you in your car, pull off the road, set hazard lights to flashing, and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial or window. Remain in your vehicle; rescuers are most likely to find you there. Conserve fuel, but run the engine and heater about ten minutes each hour to keep warm, cracking a downwind window slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Exercise to maintain body heat but don't overexert. Huddle with other passengers and use your coat for a blanket. In extreme cold use road maps, seat covers, floor mats, newspapers or extra clothing for covering--anything to provide additional insulation and warmth. Turn on the inside dome light so rescue teams can see you at night, but be careful not to run the battery down. In remote areas, spread a large cloth over the snow to attract the attention of rescue planes. Do not set out on foot unless you see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Once the blizzard is over, you may need to leave the car and proceed on foot. Follow the road if possible. If you need to walk across open country, use distant points as landmarks to help maintain your sense of direction." (Tips provided by FEMA)

Legal Concerns

The Car Snowball: When your car is covered with snow it makes for safer driving if you clear all the snow off - but are you required to legally? Technically, in most states, there is not a "snow on the car" law. Instead, other laws may be interpreted to include snow. Be safe and get your car uncovered completely so you can clearly see around you and don't inadvertently cause hazards.

  • In many states you can be cited if your windshield, rear window and windows are obstructed so you cannot see the road. This is often interpreted to include snow, ice and fog that disrupt the drivers view.
  • How about the snow on your roof or hood that you left there? In many states you will not be cited for this alone, however, if this snow flies off and damages another car (i.e. smacks into and cracks the windshield of the car behind you) then you are liable for any damages. Some states are clever and cite snow falling from your car as littering! 
  • While you are at it, make sure to clear any snow from your headlights and break lights. This not only helps you light your path, but no doing so may be a citation waiting to happen in some states.

Snow tires, studs, and chains, oh my!

NOW TIRES: Standard in many snowy states usually there are not penalties for having these tires on past a certain date. Check with your local tire stores as they will often store your summer tires during the winter season and vice versa. STUDDED TIRES: States that allow these tires for winter travel often have a set timeline when they may be used (i.e. In Alaska they may be on by September 15th and are due off by May 1st - most states in the lower 48 will have a shorter time allotment). This information can be found at your state Department of Transportation website (see list to the right) CHAINS: Especially if traveling in mountainous states, learn if chains are often required, make sure you have them and learn how to put them on before you go. Some flat states also allow chains under certain conditions. Check with your state Department of Transportation for specific requirements or limitations. The following YouTube video illustrates how to put on cable style chains. It is sponsored by the Oregon Department of Transportation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8RVbDuyOcY):

Setting Your Budget

Your next step is to create a project budget.

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You have evaluated the neighborhood and find that your improvement is consistent with general aesthetic and size parameters. You plan to remain in the house for some time. You find that a second mortgage payment will not strain your current monthly budget. You feel you can devote a certain amount of time towards planning the project. And finally, you are really sick of waiting in line to go to the bathroom in your own house!

Your next step is to create a project budget. Decide how long you plan on staying in your home. The length of time you intend to stay in a home will affect how much money you should invest in it. If you are going to stay in the home for more than ten years, you should spend as much as you are able to create the home of your dreams. Make a list of all your debts. You should include any debts you pay on a monthly basis, such as mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and any other items with a fixed monthly payment. This list should not include payments for groceries, utilities, telephone services, or other general expenses. Call this list your monthly expenses. Determine your total gross monthly income. Include all sources of income that you would list on a loan application.

You are ready to determine a project budget. Use the following steps for this process; I have plugged numbers into the formulas to demonstrate how each works.

STEP 1
Lenders use a simple Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio to determine if a homeowner can afford the additional debt of a remodeling project. DTI Enter Your Total Monthly Expenses $2,860.00 Add the Estimated Monthly Payment for the Project +$775.67 Total $3,635.67 Divide the Total by Your Gross Monthly Income $7,950.00 DTI = 45.7% Each lender will approve loans at a specific DTI percentage (most lenders will tell you what their set DTI ratio is, if you ask). In this example, let us assume that the lender accepts DTI ratios of 45 percent. You are right at the cusp of qualifying. Provided your credit rating is good and you have plenty of equity in your home you will most likely be approved for this loan.

STEP 2
The next step is to determine the maximum monthly payment you can afford for remodeling. Multiply your monthly gross income amount by the lender's maximum DTI allowance, and subtract your current total monthly expenses, excluding the estimated remodeling payment. Gross Monthly Income $7,950.00 Lender's DTI ratio x.45 Subtotal $3,577.50 Less Total Monthly Expenses -$2,860.00 Maximum Affordable Payment = $717.50 Use this figure to determine the maximum available to you to borrow. In this case we assume that the home improvement loan is a fifteen year note at seven percent. The maximum you can borrow is forty-seven thousand dollars for your project given this monthly payment. There are many different options you can explore with your lender during this process. These options can sometimes increase the amount you can borrow; it is best to discuss this thoroughly with lenders. We discuss financing in more detail in the next section.

STEP 3
The final consideration for your budget is if there is any available cash to supplement what you borrow for the project. These are funds not being set aside for future financial obligations such as retirement, college, or other major purchases (like a new car). They are not required for monthly or general expenses as well. In this example let us assume that you have three thousand dollars in excess funds available for the project. This brings your maximum project budget to fifty thousand dollars. The budget now becomes the overriding parameter that drives the project. Every decision from this point forward is made according to the limits set by the budget. The next thing to consider is the percentage of the budget necessary for contingencies. Contingencies are unexpected items that present themselves during the course of the project. The guideline is to set aside between five and twenty percent of your budget for contingencies. The actual percentage depends upon the complexity of the project. For instance, a new roof generally does not require other ancillary items be repaired or altered in order to install the roof. Therefore the minimum contingency of five percent is usually sufficient. On the other hand, a large addition to your home involves many more trades and materials that likely require the maximum contingency of twenty percent. As a rule if any portion of your existing walls, floors, or ceilings must be demolished or opened up in order to install the new materials you need a contingency towards the maximum. Although a professional architect and/or contractor have vast knowledge of the construction process he or she does not have X-ray vision. Often times there are situations that complicate construction contained within these areas that cannot possibly be known about until the area is opened. For our example we will assume you are putting on a small kitchen addition (referred to as a “bump-out”). Since you will have to open up an existing wall but the work area is concentrated to a small portion of the house a contingency of fifteen percent should suffice.

This means that the budget for actual construction that you present to the architect is forty-two thousand five hundred dollars. This is the parameter you want your design professional to use. You hold the seven thousand five hundred dollars in reserve to address any unforeseen expenses that occur once the project begins. You protect yourself from scrambling for extra funds in the middle of the upgrade; if you do not use all of the contingency, and there is no rule that says you have to, then you complete your project under budget (heretofore an unheard of occurrence in remodeling)!

Chimney caps, yes or no?

Our home inspector recommended that we install a chimney cap on the older home that we are buying.

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Q Our home inspector recommended that we install a chimney cap on the older home that we are buying. The chimney has not had a cap in it’s 60 plus year life, so why put one on now?

A In my practice as a home inspector, I always recommend the installation of chimney caps. Chimney caps serve a variety of purposes. They keep animals such as birds, squirrels and rodents from entering the chimney and in some cases the crawl space. A 60 year old home may have had an oil-fired furnace in the crawl space or basement which would have been vented through the chimney. The vent pipe opening provides direct access for critters. It is not unusual for rodents to crawl down through the chimney into the crawlspace seeking a warm place to nest. Chimney caps also keep out rain and debris such as leaves that can collect in the flu. Chimney caps also serve as spark arresters. Most caps are not expensive, and your local chimney sweep can recommend the one that is best for your chimney.

Bathroom Remodeling Homecheck

Your bathroom is where you prep to start your day and where you wind down at the end of the day.

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Your bathroom is where you prep to start your day and where you wind down at the end of the day. From a nice hot shower to an at home spa, the bathroom is an important room in every home and to our daily lives. However, it can be the room most overlooked when it comes to decoration and/or remodeling. It shouldn't be. According to Contractors.com, remodeling your bathroom can yield an 80-90% return in the value of your home. Adding a new bathroom can also easily give you a 90% return in the value of your home. Improving this room can, therefore, be a savvy investment in your property. But it can be more than just a wise investment. Updating your bathroom can make this at home retreat more inviting and invigorating. Take the time to make a bright, friendly room to jump start your busy work day, and a calm, peaceful room to help you wind down in your own do-it-yourself spa retreat. Below, we provide some hints and tips for your bathroom makeover. Whether just changing a few decorations or completing a major remodel, we hope you will find something beneficial for your bathroom remodeling project.

Part I: Decoration Makeover & Small Remodel - This decoration makeover includes simple, do-it-yourself solutions for a quick update. Many of these changes could be done in one to two days. Some of these remodel items may take longer.

Make a Plan - The fist step to any decoration makeover or remodel is to set out a plan for the project.

  • Determine your budget and time. Both will help determine what you can do. You may need to consider doing the project in stages or altering your original ideas. Planning ahead will help make certain you do not end up with an unusable bathroom for weeks or even months!
  • Consider what the bathroom is lacking such as do you have enough functional space, storage space, lighting, etc.
  • Does the room have any items that need updating? This can anything from the toilet to the outdated wallpaper on the walls.
  • What do you envision for the space? Do you want a Zen retreat or a homey B&B feel to the room. Consider what you want the completed room to look like. Do you have anything in there that fits this idea now? Or will it be better to start from scratch?
  • How much experience do you have with remodeling. Are you limited to painting the walls and changing hardware? If some of your ideas seem over your head, you may want to consider hiring a contractor, plumber or electrician. For more information about a major remodel projects, see below.
  • Finally, if you want a change but are drawing a blank with ideas, consider hiring an interior designer. Some people are hesitant about hiring an interior designer because they think they have to use them all the way through. But indeed you can work with them to make a project plan and project manage the remodel yourself. Or you can also hire them to follow the entire project from start to finish.

Cabinets and Storage - You may want to replace or add to your existing bathroom cabinets.

  • Changing a mirror to a medicine cabinet can help add space above your sink.
  • Adding cabinets can help you store essentials for the bathroom from towels to extra soaps and supplies. There are many styles of cabinets available.
  • You can get stand alone cabinets or wall cabinets that fit above a sink or toilet that provide quite a bit of extra space. You can also consider changing your sink cabinet. A new design can offer an updated look and add more storage space to your bathroom. **You may wan to consider hiring a contractor for this type of work!

Walls - Is the paint or old wallpaper making the room too dark, out of date, or showing damage or spots from mildew?

  • Determine your new color scheme or theme for the room before painting or wallpaper goes up.
  • Give a fresh coat of paint on the walls! Wash the walls down first and check for mildew. Any light mildew will need sanding and bleaching. Then clean the entire surface to be painted with TSP solution. Although a bit shiner, you may want to consider a satin or even semi-gloss paint as these will make your walls easier to clean and more resistant to constant cleaning. Just keep in mind, the more glossy paint will show imperfections in the wall itself.
  • If you decide to wallpaper a bathroom, keep in mind the moisture content of the room. Also consider how often you may be cleaning certain walls near a sink or bathtub.
  • Consider combining a new coat of paint with a wallpapered trim!

Lighting - Again, how bright is the space? Is it too dark or too bright and harsh?

  • Replacing the light fixtures can help you add more soft light in your bathroom. Try to avoid glaring harsh lights as these can be very unappealing.
  • Consider two light switch options for the room: one to soft light for general use and the other to brighter light for applying makeup, etc.
  • Consider adding a solar tube or skylight for more natural lighting in the room. **You may want to consider hiring a contractor for this type of work!

Windows - If your bathroom has a window, consider if there are any updates needed to the window when coming up with your redesign plan.

  • If an older window, you might consider replacing the window with a newer one. Or you may want to add additional windows or change the style to bring in more natural light. **You may want to consider hiring a contractor for this type of work!
  • Does the window give enough privacy? You may want to consider updating blinds, curtains or frosting the window to provide more privacy to your bathroom.

Fan - If you have any problems with mildew or don't already have a fan, you may want to consider adding one to the room.

  • Many fans now include overhead lights and can add a more welcoming feature to the room than the loud eye-sores of past models.

Shower Curtain or Door - You can brighten your bathroom by changing your shower curtain or door.

  • Replacing an older shower curtain is a cheap way to help update the decor of your bathroom.
  • Installing a bath/shower door can help lighten the space of the room. This can also help make cleaning easier and cut down on mildew or damp spots if this has been a problem. Many times shower curtains will let condensed water sit or runoff the corners of your tub or shower. A well sealed bath/shower door can help.

Hardware - Changing out your old hardware can be one of the easiest updates to the bathroom.

  • Add a new towel rack or completely change the set to start a new color scheme with a brushed nickel, bronze etc.
  • You can add a spa feel to your bathroom by adding little upgrades like heated towel racks!

Faucet - Updating your sink faucets can help give the bathroom a facelift.

  • Sink faucets can be relatively easy to change out. If uncertain, take a class at a hardware store or hire a professional.
  • Changing the faucets in your bathtub can be a littler trickier. However, again a class or professional can help with this change.
  • If you have a showerhead, this can also be changed out to complete your new look and perhaps add a more spa like feel to the room.

Sink & Countertop - You may want to replace or refinish your sink.

  • If you are already replacing your sink cabinet you may replace the sink at the same time if you get an all-inclusive unit.
  • Consider adding another sink if you have the space. Many new vanities include a two sink option.
  • You may also consider changing the countertop if the sink itself is fine. There are many styles of laminate to choose from or you may change the template completely with a new cabinet.

Mirrors - A mirror is an essential item to every bathroom.

  • Consider updating your mirror if crackled or out of style.
  • How do you use your mirror? You may want to consider mirrors that hinge out to provide angles or depth when needed or one that offers different strengths of magnification.
  • Mirrors can also be decorative items! Mirrored sconces or tiles on the wall can help to give a dark corner light or a narrow space depth.

Refinishing & Liners - Refinishing or lining your tub can be a great way to make it look new once again.

  • You can refinish your own tub, but you will need a respirator, spray gun, sander, chemical cleaners and will need to also purchase an acrylic top coat. The actual refinishing product can be purchased as a kit. Keep in mind that there will be a 30-60 minute wait between about three coats of acrylic and a 24 hour set time. Needless to say, this will be a time consuming project that will take patience, clear ventilation, patience, time, and patience. **You may want to consider hiring a contractor for this type of work!
  • Another option is inserting a bathtub or shower liner. This is a task you can do by yourself with some careful planning and a few extra helping hands. There are also many dealers offering liners and installation for reasonable rates. **You may want to consider hiring a contractor for this type of work!

Tiling - Does your tiling need replacing? If you have the time and skill, this can be a great update to any bathroom.

  • Again, consider your timeline, budget and skill before taking on a task of this magnitude. Consider a deep clean. Giving your tile a good clean can help breathe new life into them. Some also find it beneficial to selectively replace specific tiles and re-grout lines rather than replacing the whole wall.
  • Consider this option if you are on a tight budget.
  • Make arrangements to be without your bathtub for a while if you plan to retile this area. Although the tiles and grout may set at specific times, you may need longer to work it out if taking it on as a do-it-yourself project.
  • If tiling/retiling a floor, consider how you are going to move the toilet and sink/sink cabinet or if you are going to tile around them.
  • Be patient with any tiling project, take it slow as this is something that should last a long time.

Vinyl Flooring - If tile flooring is not for you, you may want to consider replacing your existing vinyl flooring with an updated vinyl.

  • As with tile flooring, consider your timeline, budget and skill before taking on this task.
  • Consider how you are going to move the toilet, and sink/sink cabinet or if you are going to tile around them.
  • Again, consider taking a class at a local hardware store or hiring a professional if uncomfortable with this kind of work.

Part II: Major Remodel - This makeover includes major structural changes and updates. You may be more likely to need professional help. Also, this type of remodel may include obtaining specific building permits from your city or county.

Make a Plan - The fist step to any major remodel is to create a plan for the project.

  • Determine your budget and time. Planning ahead will prevent unforeseen expenses and help you obtain better estimates from professionals you may need to hire for the project.
  • You may need to get a building permit for some of your changes, especially if you are making major structural changes to the room.
  • Consider what the bathroom is lacking such as do you have enough functional space, storage space, lighting, etc.
  • Does the room have any items that need updating? This can anything from the plumbing to the sink fixtures. What do you envision for the space? Do you want a Zen retreat or a homey B&B feel to the room. Consider what you want the completed room to look like. Do you have anything in there that fits this idea now? Or will it be better to start from scratch?
  • How much experience do you have with remodeling. Are there some aspects of this remodel that you are confident you can complete on your own? Perhaps you don't want to install the sink but have no problem putting in the tile backsplash. Mixing contracted work with do-it-yourself work can be a great way to save money if you have the time.
  • You may want to consult with an interior designer for a major remodel project. They could bring up considerations for the space you may not have thought about.
  • What kind of professional help will you need? Will you need a general contractor, electrician or plumber? Often times even a general contractor may hire out certain tasks (i.e. electrical work) under their supervision. If you know what tasks will need to be done then you will have a better idea of who will need to be hired on to help.

Hire a Contractor - With a major remodel you will very likely need professional help.

  • Interview several contractors and get estimates from each. Ask questions and be bold enough to ask why estimate are different - i.e. if they are using different materials, this is good to know in advance!
  • Many contractors will help obtain the necessary permits for your project. Check and see if any you are interviewing will help with this process. Avoid any contractors who say this or that permit, "isn't really needed."
  • Check to see if the contractor will be sub-contracting certain aspects of your project such as plumbing, electrical, tiling, etc.
  • Find out what they expect from you in getting sub-contractors access to work site, etc. For even more information, please see our article How to Hire a Contractor: Working as a Team on Your Next Home Project.

Permits - Many overhaul projects that effect the structure of your home will need permits from the city or county.

  • If you are removing or adding any walls this may be affected by local or state building codes.
  • You may not be aware of all the aspects in your project that may need a permit. Check with your contractor or if you are doing it alone, check with your local government for guidance.

Cabinets and Storage - You may want to replace or add to your existing bathroom cabinets.

  • Adding cabinets can help you store essentials for the bathroom from towels to extra soaps and supplies. With a major remodel you may have the opportunity to include built-in wall cabinets/closets in your new bathroom. Otherwise, there are many styles of cabinets available. You can get stand alone cabinets or wall cabinets that fit above a sink or toilet that provide quite a bit of extra space.
  • You can also consider changing your sink cabinet. A new design can offer a updated look and add more storage space to your bathroom.

Walls - Do you have room to expand your space?

  • Taking down a wall to add space can do wonders for a small bathroom.
  • Think outside the box. Replace a dividing wall with glass blocks to allow more light throughout the bathroom. Insert small alcoves within the walls to add little retreats for mirrors, candles and other decorative items to make the space more inviting. Some redesigns are using tiles on the walls as a protective "wainscoting" design. Other designs include half walls to offer definition of space without enclosing it. The possibilities can be endless.

Lighting - How bright is the space? Is it too dark or too harsh?

  • Replacing the light fixtures can help you add more soft light in your bathroom. Try to avoid glaring harsh lights as these can be very unappealing.
  • Consider getting an electrician to add light switches. Add one for soft, every day light and another for brighter, utilitarian light for applying makeup, etc.
  • With the help of an electrician you can add recessed lighting, track lighting, or other design lighting updates.

Windows - If your bathroom has a window, consider if there are any updates needed to the window when planning your redesign.

  • If an older window, you might consider replacing the window with a newer one. You can add a special feature like stained or frosted glass. Or consider built in blinds for a combo of extra privacy and easy cleaning. You may also consider making the window larger or adding an additional window to the room.
  • Consider adding a solar tube or skylight for more natural lighting in the room.

Fan - If you have any problems with mildew or don't already have a fan, you may want to consider adding one in the room.

  • Many fans now include overhead lights and can add a more welcoming feature to the room than the loud eye-sores of past models.
  • Consider working with an electrician to get a more powerful fan with more options and better ability to clear moisture from the room.

Shower Door - You can brighten your bathroom by changing to a shower door.

  • Installing a bath/shower door can help lighten the space of the room. This can also help make cleaning easier and cut down on mildew or damp spots if this has been a problem. Many times shower curtains will let condensed water sit or runoff the corners of your tub or shower. A well sealed bath/shower door can help.
  • Another alternative to a shower door is using glass blocks or a tiled wall to separate the shower from the larger room. This adds a decorative feature and more light for the room overall.

Faucet - Updating your faucets can help give the bathroom a facelift.

  • Sink faucets can be relatively easy to change out.
  • Changing the faucets in your bathtub and the showerhead can help complete a new look for you bathroom.
  • If remodeling an older home, a major remodel may be a good time to consider reviewing the pipes and improving water pressure and usage. There are many water saving devices available now that can still offer a good amount of water pressure.

Sink & Countertop - You may want to replace or refinish your sink.

  • If you are already replacing your sink cabinet you may replace the sink at the same time if you get an all-inclusive unit.
  • Consider adding another sink if you have the space. Many new vanities include a two sink option.
  • You may also consider changing the countertop if the sink itself is fine. There are many styles of laminate to choose from or you may change the template completely with a new cabinet.

Refinishing & Liners - Refinishing or lining your tub can be a great way to make it look new once again.

  • Refinishing your tub is an alternative to replacing or lining it. This process will need at least a 24 hour set time. This should be considered if working with more than one professional as work will have to be suspended as the acrylic is applied and sets.
  • Another option is inserting a bathtub or shower liner. Many companies offer the liner and installation for a reasonable cost.

Tiling - Finish your spa retreat with professional tiling.

A major remodel is a great time to get the bathtub, shower, floor and even walls all done at once.

If you want to keep the old tiling, consider this a time to get damaged tiles replaced and grout redone.

New Big Items - A major remodel may also include getting a new bathtub, toilet, sink or custom made shower.

  • If you are doing a different style design you may want to consider changing some or all of your big items.
  • If you are updating an older home, this would be a great time to get a more efficient toilet or better fixtures to aid with water pressure.
  • This is your own spa, maybe it is time to replace that old bathtub with a jetted one!
  • A custom built shower can offer a neat new design and multiple shower spray option for a more spa-like experience.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are considering a small or large remodel, the short list above makes it obvious the possibilities are endless. In both cases, make certain to plan ahead and really consider how you want your new bathroom to function and feel. Have fun, get carried away, and then look at what you can turn into a reality. Get help from the professionals whether it be an interior designer or a general contractor. Or get in your hours at your local home improvement store's classes and put your patience and creativity to the test. Either way, the best part of a bathroom remodel is that once it is done, you can reap your rewards by enjoying your mini spa retreat everyday!

Winter Safety Tips

Whether celebrating a holiday or snuggling next to the fire.

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Winter brings many different holidays and celebrations. During these various festivities we host dinners or gatherings and may have many house guests. And so up go the decorations! Decorating your home can be fun. However, many times we are putting up items we may not be familiar with and have lost their various 'How to' booklets years ago. We are cramming our space with such fun, festive items that we may not think much about how to display these items safely. If you have children, pets, house guests, or crazy, exuberant relatives around the house this winter holiday season, you may want to consider some general safety tips. Even if you aren't hosting an event but will be using winter items, such as a fireplace, this article will have a few helpful tips for you. We know you are busy, and the last thing anyone wants to do when planning a party is to think about all the details! Thus, here is simple, quick safety checklist for your winter fun!

Below is our checklist of things to watch for during winter activities and holidays. The winter season is a time that safety should be considered. Just look at these facts and figures from the National Fire Protection Association: In 2002, there were 240 Christmas tree fires in U.S. homes, resulting in $11.4 million in direct property damage. During 2001, an estimated 18,000 home fires started by candles were reported to public fire departments. Fourteen percent of the candle fires occurred in December. This is almost twice the 8% monthly average. During 1999-2001, candles caused an estimated annual average of 16,300 home structure fires. These fires resulted in 140 civilian injuries and $289 million in direct property damage. In 11% of the December candle fires, the fires began when a decoration caught fire. This was true in only 3% of the fires during the rest of the year (Source: NFPA's One-Stop Data Shop). Please take a moment to review some safety tips. Then enjoy a safe holiday and winter!

SNOW!

  • If you must be outside, wear plenty of layers of clothing. Don't over-exert yourself. Make sure you wear a hat, because the largest amount of body heat is lost through the top of the head.
  • Sunscreen: the sun's rays can still cause sunburn in the winter, especially when they reflect off snow!
  • If weather warnings suggest a severe wind chill or extremely low temperatures, consider avoiding outdoor activities until the weather improves.
  • Ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat, and water-resistant boots.
  • The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
  • Be aware of symptoms and treatment for hypothermia, snow blindness and frostbite.
    Hypothermia: Complaints about being cold and irritability. Uncontrollable shivering. Impaired or slurred speech or vision. Clumsy movements. Blurred vision. Severe symptoms can include stiff muscles, dark and puffy skin, irregular heart and breathing rates and unconsciousness.
    Snow Blindness: Eyes become sensitive to light. Pain in eyes or forehead. Gritty feeling in the eyes. Frostbite: Superficial frostbite that looks like gray or yellowish patches on the skin, especially, fingers, toes, face, ears but can occur on any exposed skin. The first symptoms are usually numbness or itching and prickly pain. The skin remains soft but becomes red and flaky after it thaws. Deep or Severe Frostbite looks like waxy and pale skin and feels cold, hard and solid to the touch. The areas turn blue or purple when thawing and large blisters may appear when the area warms up.
  • Shoveling Snow: If you have a history of heart trouble, check with your doctor before grabbing that snow shovel and clearing the driveway or sidewalk. Don't shovel snow just after you eat. Don't smoke while shoveling. Pace yourself. Snow shoveling is a strenuous exercise that raises both your pulse and blood pressure. Treat shoveling like an athletic event: warm up before you start, and stretch during and after shoveling. Concentrate on using your legs instead of your back. Bend your legs and keep your back straight. Take breaks. And don't work until you are exhausted. If your chest feels tight, stop immediately.
  • Teach children never to touch metal during cold temperatures.
  • Children should never play on snow piles near parking lots or on the road side. Make sure children never go near snow plows or areas being plowed.
  • Sledding: Keep sledders away from motor vehicles. Children should be supervised. Keep young children separated from older children. Sledding feet first or sitting up, instead of lying down head-first, may prevent head injuries. Use steerable sleds, not snow disks or inner tubes. Sleds should be structurally sound and free of sharp edges and splinters, and the steering mechanism should be well lubricated. Sled slopes should be free of obstructions like fire hydrants or fences, be covered in snow not ice, not be too steep (slope of less than 30º), and end with a flat runoff. Avoid sledding in overcrowded areas.
  • Skiing/Snowboarding: Never ski or snowboard alone. Young children should always be supervised by an adult. Older children's need for adult supervision depends on their maturity and skill. If they are not with an adult, than they should at least be accompanied with a friend. Consider wearing a helmet. Equipment should fit. Skiers should wear safety bindings that are adjusted at least every year. Snowboarders should wear gloves with built-in wrist guards. Slopes should fit the ability and experience of the skier or snowboarder. Avoid overcrowded slopes.
  • A winter storm WATCH means a winter storm is possible in your area. A winter storm WARNING means a winter storm is headed for your area. A blizzard WARNING means strong winds, blinding wind-driven snow, and dangerous wind chill are expected. Seek shelter immediately!

Travel

  • When leaving for a long time: Make certain to get your mail held by the post office. Also get your paper stopped. Have a neighbor or family stop by and check your house once a day. Set timers on lights, indoor and outdoors. Make sure your outdoor sensor lights are in working order.
  • If you have a security system make sure it is fully armed. Let anyone checking on your house know how to unarm and reset it if they will be entering your home. Check all windows to make certain they are locked. If traveling out of state, make certain to review weather reports and construction reports before starting your trip.
  • Keep windows up and doors locked at all times.
  • Keep a half a tank of fuel; this will prepare you in case you run into long holiday traffic or weather delays.
  • Put together a winter-driving kit, including a pair of gloves, a warm hat, and a blanket.
  • If a blizzard traps you in your car: Pull off the road, set hazard lights to flashing, and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial or window. Remain in your vehicle; rescuers are most likely to find you there. Conserve fuel, but run the engine and heater about ten minutes each hour to keep warm, cracking a downwind window slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Exercise to maintain body heat but don't overexert. Huddle with other passengers and use your coat for a blanket. In extreme cold use road maps, seat covers, floor mats, newspapers or extra clothing for covering--anything to provide additional insulation and warmth. Turn on the inside dome light so rescue teams can see you at night, but be careful not to run the battery down. In remote areas, spread a large cloth over the snow to attract the attention of rescue planes. Do not set out on foot unless you see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Once the blizzard is over, you may need to leave the car and proceed on foot. Follow the road if possible. If you need to walk across open country, use distant points as landmarks to help maintain your sense of direction. (Tips provided by FEMA)

Guests

  • If visiting another home, keep in mind they may not have children and therefore may not have everything out of reach that should be. Always keep a close eye on children when visiting someone else's home. Even if it is a familiar home, their holiday decorations may have changed the landscape enough that it will be a whole new environment with potential hazards for children.
  • If leaving children with a babysitter make sure they are prepared with all the needed numbers and contacts. Make sure sitters are aware of any holiday/special rules for the house; i.e. no running around the Christmas Tree.
  • If guests will be smoking, provide them with large, deep ashtrays and check them frequently. Keep out of reach for children and pets.
  • When attending a party, always designate a non-drinking driver.
  • If you are the host of a holiday gathering, be sure there are non-alcoholic beverages available for guests who are driving. Stop serving alcohol well before the party is over. Bring out coffee, more alcohol-free drinks and more food.

Gifts

  • Choose toys appropriate for age, ability and skill for children. Children under the age of 10 should only get electrical toys that use batteries rather than ones that plug into the wall.
  • Read instructions for children's toys carefully before letting them run off and play.
  • Government guidelines specify that toys for children under three years of age cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
  • Remove strings and ribbons from toys before given to young children.
  • fter gifts are opened make sure wrapping paper is cleaned up as some bags may prove to be suffocating/chocking hazards.
  • Make sure wrapping paper doesn't get too close to the fireplace.

Food Safety

  • Thoroughly cook all meat products.
  • Thaw meat in the refrigerator - not on the counter.
  • Thoroughly wash all raw vegetables and fruits.
  • Keep raw and cooked foods separate. Make sure to use different utensils when preparing them.
  • Wash your hands frequently. If working with "little chefs" making holiday treats, make sure they wash their hands often as well.
  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on kitchen projects.
    If you are faced with a grease fire, remember, put a lid on it, and turn the heat source off!
  • Foods that require refrigeration should never be left out more than two hours.
  • Do not add new food to a serving dish that h0as been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Dry foods such as nuts, crackers, baked goods, breads, hard cheeses and candy don't support bacterial growth. Fruits, pickles, jams and jellies are too acidic for most bacteria.
  • Clean up early after a party. Plates left out and around may have bad food that can make children sick or can become a chocking hazard.
  • If you choose to make eggnog with whole eggs, heat the egg-milk mixture to at least 160°F. Refrigerate at once, dividing large amounts into shallow containers so that it cools quickly.
  • Use ciders labeled as pasteurized, or bring unpasteurized cider to a boil before serving. This is especially important when serving cider to people with weakened immune systems.
  • Use leftover turkey meat, bones, stuffing, gravy and other cooked dishes within two to three days.

Fireplace Safety

  • Fireplaces should be cleaned annually, preferably by a professional chimney sweep.
  • Keep fireplace screens/doors closed when fire is lit.
  • Make sure to open the flue before lighting a fire :)
  • Make sure no decorations are near the fireplace before lilting.
  • Use only wood that is properly seasoned to reduce creosote build-up.
  • Wrapping paper burns fast and intense. Do NOT use wrapping paper in the fireplace.
  • Keep any fire starts out of the reach of children. These are often very dangerous if ingested.
  • When burning artificial logs, burn only one at a time. They produce too much concentrated heat for some types of fireplaces.
  • Don't use water to extinguish a fire. It can crack the bricks in your hearth. Let the fire burn itself out.
  • If using portable/space heaters, keep them at least three feet from anything that can burn.

Decorations

• Decorations 

  • Avoid sharp decorations where small children and pets may reach them.
  • Do not get decorations that look like food or candy when small children are present.
  • Get down on your hands and knees and examine your decorations before your pets do.
  • If there is just too much mischief for them to get into make certain you can make the room off-limits. If using spun glass (angel hair) make sure to follow directions fully. Make certain it is out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Keep holiday plants such as mistletoe, holly berries, and Christmas cactus away from children and pets. Poinsettias can make pets very sick.
  • These materials should never be used for holiday decorations because they are inherently combustible: bamboo, cedar trees/branches, corn stalks/shucks, cotton or confetti (loose, in large quantities), dry moss/leaves, flammable powders/liquids, hay/straw (loose or baled), paper streamers (serpentine), plastic sheeting/pellets, sawdust, tumbleweeds, and wood bark/shavings.

• Candles

  • Do not use candles on Christmas trees or evergreen trimmings.
  • Use non-flamable holders and make sure they are placed where they cannot be knocked over easily.
  • Do not keep candles lit in rooms that is not occupied/supervised.
  • Check your candles as they burn. Some will burn unevenly and may finish sooner than you expected or break open drip streams of hot wax.
  • Do not leave children unattended around candles and matches/lighters.

• Lights

  • Turn off all lights before going to bed or leaving the home. It is an even better idea to turn lights off when they are in a room that is unattended.
  • Whether new or old, always check your lights before hanging them anywhere. Check that bulbs are all working well and not cracked. Also looked for any damage to wires or socket connections.
  • urn off lights before replacing bulbs or fuses.
  • Do not put indoor lights under carpets or behind curtains. Make sure they are away from foot traffic and are not stepped on.
  • Keep cords and lights away from small children and pets.
  • Make sure to only use lights certified for outdoor use outside! If using lights from last year, make a habit of storing outdoor items together so if the labels are lost you still know which is which.
  • String lights through hooks or insulated staples. Do not use nails and tacks.
  • Outdoor lights should be plugged into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFI) to avoid shocks.
  • Where lights are connected together outdoors, keep the connections dry by wrapping them with friction tape or plastic.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets. Look for manufacturer's recommendation. General rule is no more than 3 strings of lights for each extension cord.
  • Do NOT use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  • When removing lights, never tug! Remove them as gently as they were strung up!

• Trees & Evergreen Trimmings

  • If purchasing a live Christmas Tree, check to see that the tree is fresh. The tree should be green, the needles should not break off easily, you should have to pull the needles to remove them. When you tap the tree against the ground it shouldn't be shedding needles. Also, there will be resin visible on a fresh tree bottom.
  • When you bring your tree home cut the bottom so that fresh wood is exposed. This will allow for better water absorption and keep the tree from drying too quickly. Also make certain to keep the tree stand basin filled with water; something that can be easy to forgot since it is not part of your normal routine!
  • Choose a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
  • If purchasing an artificial tree look for one labeled "Fire Resistant." Note the resistant, artificial does not mean fire proof! Place your tree away from heat sources such as fireplace or space heaters.
  • Don't place your tree in high traffic space. You don't want someone to trip and topple over the tree!
  • Trim your tree with non-flamable decorations, such as tinsel or plastic ornaments. However, watch tinsel as cats like it, but it is not at all good for them! Be very careful if your pets have access to the tree that decorations are not tempting to them.
  • Keep green trimmings away from heat sources. They are great for railings or doorways, but not good for table center pieces if there are candles there as well!
  • Tree and trimmings should be removed as soon as able once the holiday season is over. You don't want a pile of dry evergreen sitting in a corner waiting to ignite!