Like a lot of you, I’m definitely looking forward to Thanksgiving. I love that everything kind of centers around my favorite room in the house - the kitchen. For most people the kitchen means warmth, family, and food. For me, your friendly neighborhood home inspector, the kitchen also means regular maintenance and safety measures. With the holidays and relatives rapidly approaching, now is a good time to take a look at some things you can do to ensure a safe and festive Thanksgiving.
Range Hood Filters
Range hood filters get sticky, greasy, and gross. And all that grossness happens to be highly flammable. Cleaning the filter on your vent fan will go a long way to ensure safe operation. Most vent filters can be removed without the use of any tools at all. Cleaning is super easy. I spray mine with a strong degreaser and pop it into the dishwasher. Other methods can be found online, some are a little extensive, but choose one that won’t take too much time; we have other fish to fry.
This time of year we’ll probably be using more counter-top appliances than usual so let’s talk about electrical safety. Test your GFCI outlets. Simply press the TEST button and verify that the outlet no long distributes power. Once confirmed press the RESET button and verify that the power is back on. If either one of these fails, you’ll need to replace that outlet. Don’t freak out, the units cost less than $20. If you’re living in an older home and don’t have GFCI protection in your kitchen, call an electrician and have them installed. Don’t get swindled – one outlet can protect up to 4 outlets downstream.
On top of that, there are a few nevers and alwayses. Never use extension cords or expansion plates in the kitchen. I know, everyone in the family wants to charge their electronic devices on the kitchen counter, but there is only one outlet on that end of the counter.
Find another place. An overloaded outlet can overheat and as tempting as it may be to set your teenage daughter's phone on fire, it would likely spread to the rest of the house (which includes your yoga mat and wine collection).
Always unplug counter-top appliances when they are not in use. All it takes is little Melvin and Emmy-Lou (the cousins from the other side of the family) to see you use the food processor once and the next time you hear that food processor chopping it will be your Jimmy Chu that’s being liquified.
A plumber can make a living just clearing out clogs caused by people putting the wrong stuff in the disposal. Fibrous foods like potato peals, carrot peals, asparagus, celery, and kale (which should never be in a kitchen at all) can clog your pipes faster than you can say “$300 for ONE DRAIN?!!" Make sure to all the kitchen helpers to avoid this disaster.
Disposals also get stinky, and what’s worse, it happens so gradually that you may not even notice it. Your in-laws certainly will and discuss it all the way back to Phoenix. Here’s a video showing 4 different cleaning methods.
The most common source of kitchen fires is an unattended range. We all get busy and forgetful especially around the holidays. My parents often forgot to pick up kids from practices and rehearsals through-out December. Forgetting simmering giblets on the stove and going to bed is easier than you think. An emergency shut off device can save you, your loved ones, and your home. Some ranges have them built-in and they work with a motion sensor fixed in the control panel, but most don’t. After market units that are triggered by the sound of your smoke alarm and fit discretely behind the range are available and easy to install.
The other thing to consider is an anti-tip bracket. This little metal device prevents the range from tipping forward if too much weight is put on the open door. All ranges come with them, but a lot of people and installers skip this important step in installation. You can test your range by grasping the top rear edge of the range and tilting it toward you. If it tilts you need one. Aftermarket units cost about $7-10 and they install in minutes. Here’s a video.
Q: You know what kind of people keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen?
A: People who’ve had kitchen fires – and your father-in-law who keeps track of how many beers you drink whenever he’s around.
If you have one check the date on the tag to make sure it’s not expired (the fire extinguisher, not a father-in-law). If you don’t have one, buy one for types AB and C fires. Remember to store it away from likely sources of fire. If the range catches fire and your fire extinguisher is in the cabinet above, you’ll still be celebrating Christmas at the Marriott Extended Stay or worse, you'll be sharing a room with Marvin and Emmy-Lou.
Well, that’s about it. Hope you had fun and learned a thing or two. Remember: The only thing that makes a house perfect is the laughter within its walls.