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How to Protect Your Family from Carbon Monoxide

by Brittany on February 15, 2012

Carbon Monoxide (“CO”) is odorless, clear and tasteless and can kill a person in minutes at high levels.  Carbon Monoxide is produced when any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If your appliances are properly maintained, the amount of CO produced is usually not dangerous. However, people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances.To me, that screams terrifying.

One of the most important parts of home maintenance is to keep up with all of your gas powered appliances as well as have and maintain both carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.  They save lives.  Whether you live in a house, an apartment or an RV make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors that are not expired and that you test them and clean them regularly.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

What is in My Home That Produces Carbon Monoxide?

The list is not short and most people have something in their home.  Topping the list according to the EPA are oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves.  CO is also present in all gasoline powered engines – not just your car!  Your lawn mower, weed whacker, snow blower and generator may be powered by gas.

Maintaining (or making sure your landlord maintains) your gas fueled appliances regularly is so important to prevent you from operating something that is not working and could kill you.  Over the next few months I will walk through the maintenance of all these appliances as we build our home maintenance calendars.  In fact, maintenance is even more important than having the CO detector.

What are the Big Carbon Monoxide No Nos?

According to the EPA:

You should never leave a car idling in an enclosed space such as a garage.

You should never use a gas oven to heat your home.

You should never use a charcoal grill indoors anywhere.

You should never sleep in a room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.

You should not use portable gas powered appliances in enclosed spaces.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors Save Lives

Only 25 states require that CO detectors be present in residences and the regulations vary widely in those 25 states.  Whether or not you live in one of those states, you should have carbon monoxide detectors in your home.  While the technology is not as advanced as smoke detectors, these units are designed to pick up any dangerous amounts of CO and sound a loud alarm that will alert you and your family.

If you already have carbon monoxide detectors, check them out and make sure that they are not expired and that you test them and vacuum them regularly to ensure they are functioning and that there is no dust buildup that could hurt the alarm’s performance or cause false alarms.  I totally thought we had one installed and I was wrong.  We had only smoke detectors and one old CO detector that I flipped over to find it was more than 10 years old.  Most CO detectors have a life of 5-7 years and they say on the package how long they are good for.

The old one we had did have the Nighthawk technology, which is supposedly the best out there, but it was manufactured in 1999.  In addition to being expired, it was installed downstairs and we had no alarms for CO in the upstairs of our home.

Expired Carbon Monoxide DetectorI knew we needed more than one CO detector and I knew we needed new ones.  There are a lot of choices out there.  You can have carbon monoxide detectors hardwired by a professional or do it yourself.  CPI Security wanted $200 to install one for us, but we chose to go with another plug in model.  There are plug in models, battery operated models and combination models available.  Keep in mind that with a battery operated or plug in model you could take it with you on trips to make sure that you and your family are safe in hotel rooms or your RV.

Where Should Carbon Monoxide Detectors be Placed?

Follow all instructions that come with your detector for any restrictions on height or proximity to vents, windows or appliances.

If you only have 1 detector, place it near the bedroom of the house and be sure that the alarm is loud in all sleeping areas.  If you can add detectors, alarms should be placed within 15 feet of any sleeping area and on each level of your home.

I purchased 2 Kidde carbon monoxide alarms at Home Depot and will be purchasing another 2 for the downstairs and basement.  I chose the Kidde alarms after some research and the fact that Kidde is the only manufacturer of CO alarms that meets the standards of both the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) in the U.S. and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

The one on the left is the Kidde Tamper Resistant Alarm that alarms when it is removed from the wall.  I put this alarm in the kids’ play area upstairs.  That way, if they remove it or bump it I will know.  It sells for $25.87.

The one on the right is the Kidde Digital Alarm, which I put outside our bedrooms.  All of our doors are within 15 feet of one another so I think this is a good place.  I really like that I can see the digital reading at all times.  (In the picture at the top you saw the lovely 0.) I also like that with this model the plug can be rotated to fit upright or horizontal outlets, be mounted to the wall or placed on a table.  It has a small cord that hides in the back.  This model is $39.97.  Both of these models have battery backup.

Kidde Carbon Monoxide Detectors

There is no reason not to have a CO detector in your home.  It is as simple as plugging it in, writing the date on the side and testing it regularly.  The units have a simple test button to push and the instructions will tell you what should happen.

What to Do If Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarms or Poisoning is Suspected

Even with an alarm, you should know the symptoms of CO poisoning and react immediately if you experience them.  If your alarm goes off, check with every one in the house to see if they are experiencing any of these symptoms.   They include severe headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea, and feeling faint.  Even low levels of CO can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, headaches, and can affect your health.

If you experience these symptoms and your alarm sounds, leave the house immediately and get medical attention.  Your hospital can test for CO levels.  If no one is experiencing symptoms make sure you ventilate the home and turn off all gas fueled appliances.  Then call a technician to inspect your appliances and test for CO emissions and that there is nothing blocking these appliances from venting properly.

Please check your detectors and if you don’t have these in your home, install them.  Having a CO detector could save lives.

Please consider sharing this post using the buttons on the left and helping spread the word on Carbon Monoxide safety.  Let me know if you have any questions and I will try to answer them!

Also, get ready for more Tip Top Tuesday, where we tackle home maintenance one week at a time!  Subscribe by email to get tips right in your inbox!

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The Nooks Just Keep On Coming

by Brittany on February 10, 2012

You know nooks can talk, right?  They whisper things like “built-ins would be lovely here” every time you walk by.  Or they get nasty when left empty and you may hear “good luck finding the perfect piece of furniture.  Not gonna happen.  Build something or give me a built-in STAT!”

The nooks in my laundry room covered every wall and after just months I felt like they were yelling at me.  Yes, I have an active imagination.  Whatever, I’m the girl who talks to houses.  That’s not the worst thing in the world, right?

I showed you how I added a laundry room to one wall and a home office under the staircase wall.  That’s two strange walls.  The third wall is a door and the last, well, it is all nooks.  Now that I am counting all the nooks for you, it might be time to simply show you the floor plan before. See the wall with two nooks around the back of the living room fireplace? Those nooks cried out for carpentry!

Laundry Room Floor Plan

Two New Love (Stuff) Filled Nooks

These days, I would totally do this myself, as the carpentry skills are fairly straight forward with patience and a few tools.  Most built-ins are a box or combination of boxes with trim.  For this project, I had the small nook built in put in at the same time as my kitchen banquette and I built the larger nook built in with my handyman / carpenter Bruce.

So, we went over how we needed a place to do laundry and a home office.  We also needed a mudroom and a place for larger books.  Well, we had the nooks for those!

I love how they turned out and filled the space.  Yes, the fireplace still makes for a funny wall bump, but we’ll just call that character and move on, okay?  It is darn near impossible to get a picture of any one wall in this room given how small it is, so bear with me.  I’ll give a few angles.

Nooks with Built-Ins

The Mudroom

One nook had something built in already.  Something lavender with no trim. Something that the nook and I hated.  It had to go.  For so many reasons.  Most importantly, to be my mud room!

We gutted the old shelves and boy was I glad I had help.  These were all solid sheets of plywood attached to a solid back of plywood with screws everywhere and glue everywhere.  It took a lot of muscle and a little sawzall to get through it all.  {A sawzall is basically a demo saw that rips through wood and nails and stuff.  They totally rock.} I will give you a blow by blow of how to transform a nook into something like this soon.  I just wanted to show you what a little elbow grease can bring you.

I am determined to show you how things actually look.  You know, with all the stuff that FILLS it to the brim.  It would probably be prettier almost empty, but that is not how we roll with 3 kids 5 and under. There are upper and lower hooks and baskets for shoes and hats and mittens on the bottom.  The uppers are filled with beach stuff and car stuff and stuff we just need to have near the car.  In a sense, this is just one part of our WE HAVE NO GARAGE plan.  We make up little pieces of garage here and there. We totally planned to make a box cushion for the seat but who are we kidding?  There may never be room to sit there.  It is pretty and functional and that is what matters!

Nook to Mudroom before and After

The Library

The other tiny nook was by the door to the hallway.  We moved that door and the one in the kitchen so they would be directly across from each other and stuck a little mini library in the corner look left behind.  What I love about this is that it is 18 inches deep with adjustable shelves so it can hold any size book.  Huge cookbooks, giant construction how-to’s, photo albums, sheet music…it all fits!  I still need to do a little cleaning out because I would love to make room for the kids’ coloring books.  Still, for now it totally works and it is ideally placed right across from the desk.

Bookcase Nook

The Catch All

Where there is a nook there is an outer wall, right?  Here I just needed more storage so I hit Ikea for the ever popular Expedit shelving.  It is always cheap at $69.99 but we got it on special for $49.99 I believe.  Incredible, right?  It was easy to screw on some Capita legs (also from Ikea) and then we chose to add 2 sets of drawer inserts from Ikea a few months later for all those car cords and kids gaming stuff. The baskets are the Nasum, also from Ikea, and they hold all of Ross’ work papers that are ugly sitting on top of counters and all of the photography stuff that I want to grab as I run out the door.  So yeah, the accessories cost WAY more than the dresser, but this little work horse was certainly worth the $167 to add all that storage.

Ikea Expedit with Legs

I totally know it looks like it overhangs.  It doesn’t.  It is just flipping impossible to get a photo of anything as a whole unit in this darn room. Also, your eyes are not deceiving you.  On the bottom shelf you are totally looking at cereal boxes.  I make them into awesome magazine / file storage boxes with a little paper and a little Mod Podge.   Those babies are just waiting to be made beautiful!

I said it before…I really want to lighten up the colors in this room and display family photos and kids art.  While I like the Peter Max print, I don’t love primary colors and would have gotten rid of it had he not signed it for my husband and was it not my graduation present to him.  Maybe it will look okay with a bunch of kid art around it?  Who knows.  What do you think? Maybe I could re frame and somehow tone it down?

Signed Peter Max PrintThe Everything Room

This is the final chapter (for now) on how this little room off our driveway and under the stairs became the laundry room, the office, the library, the mudroom and part of the garage.  I think we have stretched the square feet in here about as far as we can.  We still have a lot of decorating and painting to do to brighten things up, but for now, it works.  From one tiny and awkward space we made a multipurpose room for our family.  We had no mudroom or laundry room or office and now we have all three!

Do you have things you wish you had in your home?  Maybe you have a room that doesn’t work well now and could be transformed using small projects into a room that does double or triple duty!  You don’t always need a bigger house, you might just need a little creativity.  Multipurpose spaces are great for apartment / loft dwellers as well.  It’s all about making the most with what you have.  If you have a space you want to transform, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email!  I am happy to help you brainstorm ideas!  And of course, I would love to see your pics!  Post them to the Tip Top Nest Facebook page so we can all enjoy your transformations!

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Working With a Staircase Nook

January 30, 2012
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In small houses, it is important to use every inch of space.  Important, heck, in our home it is imperative!  We happen to have a hideous staircase looming in the middle of a room. You know, I already started to tell you about our laundry room transformation.  We really decked out those machines.  Well, we [...]

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The Most Important Thing in a Home

January 25, 2012
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Sometimes mother nature reminds me how lucky I am.  On a night not too long ago, the skies brought me to tears as I marveled at the beauty. I looked at my home under the purplish pink glow and I felt the magic that is a home.   Any home, filled with love, holds power and [...]

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Laundry Room Transformation {Actual Laundering is Still Painful}

January 24, 2012
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We had this room leading to the outside that did not function at all.  Because it not function, we barely used it, except to go in and out of the house.  It is very small and has strange openings everywhere and a quarter of the room is under the stairs.  There was just a giant [...]

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Vintage Sheet Music Art {Tutorial}

January 18, 2012
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Why spend $275 when you could spend less than $30 and have something meaningful and handmade?  We love music and inspiration! The other day I was flipping through a Pottery Barn catalog and saw a piece of vintage sheet music art for quite a lot of money.  Not being one to like to spend a [...]

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It All Started with the Kitchen

January 10, 2012
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We thought we could live with our kitchen for awhile until the cabinet doors started falling on my very pregnant head. Solid plywood doors came off their hinges constantly and we decided to go ahead and renovate. I was still working a bajillion hours a week so we interviewed and hired a contractor to do [...]

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