Prep the Halls!
Decking the halls simply isn’t enough when guests are staying over. Give your home a once-over and make these essential repairs – because nothing’s Grinchier than a stopped-up toilet or broken garbage disposal
Guests will jam your home during the holiday season, many of them staying for a week or longer. You don’t want your furnace to conk out. And you certainly don’t want your toilets to go on the fritz. Fortunately, you can take steps before guests arrive to make sure that your home is both functional and comfortable for the holidays.
Luckily, some of the most important fixes you can tackle are those that you can do yourself. Lynda Lyday, a contractor, carpenter and home-improvement author who splits her time between New York City and St. Petersburg, Fla., recommends that homeowners fix all the squeaky hinges, loose doorknobs and stiff cabinet doors in their homes.
“You know that one doorknob, the one that – if you pull it too hard – will pop off? When you have guests, they will almost certainly pull it too hard,” Lyday says. “Remember, your home doesn’t come with an owner’s manual. Your guests don’t know the tricks you use every day.”
Lyday tells the story of the time when she put up a pair of guests in her Manhattan apartment while she traveled to Knoxville, Tenn., to shoot a TV show. When Lyday returned, the pull chains for her lights were snapped and the handles for her toilets were broken. Her guests didn’t do this on purpose. They just didn’t know that the pull chains and the handles were old and needed to be treated with extra care.
“Everyone wants their guests to feel at home. You don’t want your guests to feel like they are breaking your home,” Lyday says. “So make sure to fix everything that you’ve been ignoring.”
So if the front of your kitchen cabinet is always falling off its hinges, fix it before your guests show up. Homeowners should also repair loose bricks in the walkways leading to their homes and any loose steps leading to their front porch. Otherwise, a guest could turn an ankle or fall down the front steps – not a good way to start the holiday season.
Think, too, about making sure the garbage disposal, which will get an intense workout during the holidays, is working properly. You don’t want it clogging as you’re preparing a big holiday meal.
Then there’s plumbing. Paul Abrams, spokesman at the Cincinnati headquarters of Roto-Rooter, recommends that homeowners do a quick check of their drains before guests arrive. Maybe a shower drain or sink drain is slow. Homeowners can probably unclog isolated drains on their own. But if several drains are slow or if homeowners hear a gurgling sound bubbling up from their drains, that might lead to more intensive repairs.
If several drains are malfunctioning, Abrams recommends that homeowners hire a licensed plumber. There might be a clog in a large branch line or even in the home’s main sewer line. This is not something to ignore, and not something that most homeowners can repair on their own.
“Maybe the drains are still working, but once you get guests and you have more people showering and flushing the toilets, you put more strain on your plumbing,” Abrams says. “Once that happens, these smaller symptoms suddenly blossom into full-blown plumbing problems. That’s the last thing you want when it’s time to put the holiday dinner on the table.”
Abrams recommends, too, that homeowners address plumbing issues long before holiday guests arrive. Some plumbing companies and contractors charge more to resolve emergency issues on a holiday. They might also be busier. If your toilets conk out on Christmas morning, you might spend a fortune, and wait hours for a fix.
There are other big jobs that contractors should tackle before guests arrive. The most important is scheduling a furnace tuneup, especially if you did not get the recommended one at the start of the cold season.
Time to buy
There are also smaller items that you can buy to make your guests comfortable during the holidays. Lyday recommends that homeowners purchase at least two air purifiers. These can remove dust and odors from a home.
One area to upgrade that will please your guests and help your own home is the bathroom. Sabine Schoenberg, a real estate developer, author and owner of home improvement company Sabine’s Home in Greenwich, Conn., recommends that homeowners buy new, more powerful showerheads. She also advises homeowners to replace old toilets or at the least buy a new toilet seat.
Even something as small as new, high-quality hangers in the guestroom closet can make a difference for holiday visitors, Schoenberg says.
The main point? You need to view your residence through the eyes of your upcoming guests.
“There are so many areas and small problems in your home that you don’t think about because you see them and live with them every day,” says Mike Sigmund, who, along with his wife, Kathy, owns TruBlue Total House Care in Lexington, Ky. “Now that guests are arriving, you have to look at it from their perspective. You have to resolve the problems that you’ve become used to.”
© CTW Features