Holiday decorating is festive and fun, and as a landlord, it can be very refreshing to see a tenant taking pride in their home and decorating.  However, as with anything else, there are dangers and risk involved with these activities.

If installed properly, holiday decorations can be a lovely way to enjoy one’s home during a cold and dreary time of year.  Whether thinking about your rental property or your own home, here are some of our favorite horror stories and tips to keep things safe:

Ladders (and your behavior on them) can be dangerous.  Use a sturdy ladder when hanging lights or other decor and make sure someone is holding the base.  You will probably want to reach “just a little farther” and that could lead to a fall…and a tipped over tree…and broken ornaments…or you hanging from the gutter of the house (if you are lucky).

Think about the risks to children.  If you are decorating with children, it is not a bad idea to keep a broom and dustpan nearby.  Broken ball ornaments are incredibly sharp, and if little ones are decorating in a room with wood floors, things can get dangerous very quickly.  I have seen a child try to stick their hand inside a jagged, broken ball ornament to get out a broken piece right after the adults said, “Stand still, don’t touch anything!”  Having supplies on hand could save you from leaving the kids alone with the holiday shrapnel while you look for the dust buster.

Retro often equals unsafe.  That is just a generally good rule for life.  Lead paint and asbestos had some great qualities, but unfortunately safety wasn’t one of them.  Specific to our topic at hand, the older of style holiday lights are charming and have a retro feel, but they aren’t the safest thing around.  Using lights that are UL approved is a good first step.  Also, lights are rated for indoor or outdoor use, and it is best not to use them in an unintended location.

Hang electrical decor with care.  Never pierce your string of lights with nails, staples, or other hanging systems.  Not only will it damage your lights, it might damage you.

Extension cords can be a blessing and a curse.  Be extremely careful with the use of extension cords.  Is it rated for what you are using it for?  Is it in a damp location where water could seep into the connection?  Are you plugging multiple extension cords into each other?  Don’t do that!

Your ambiance will be ruined if flames move beyond a candle wick.  If using candles, they should be supervised and kept away from things that can burn (like curtains, flammable centerpieces, christmas trees, furniture/pillows).  The days of putting candles on trees are over, and for good reason!  It’s not a holiday horror story, but I do know some people who caught a hotel room on fire with their ambiance candles on a nightstand.  This was two people in less than 300 square feet that was not filled with ample decorations.

Hydrated plant life is happy plant life.  Make sure you water your tree!  It can be so easy to forget, and sometimes getting past the decorations to the base of the tree is a challenge, but it is important to keep your tree hydrated and as fresh as possible.  Try to keep your tree away from heat vents that will dry it out, or other heat sources like baseboards or cadets.  If you’ve ever seen an old Christmas tree lit on fire at the end of the season (like in a bonfire or some other appropriately managed burning occasion), I shouldn’t have to tell you why you don’t want that to happen inside your house.

Keep your inner pyro leashed.  If you have a fireplace, don’t burn your used wrapping paper or your discarded tree in there.  They are very flammable, and they could create fumes you should not be breathing.  They also might create a lot of smoke that could damage your mantle/walls.  Wrapping paper is recyclable, and a chopped up tree might just fit in your yard debris bin.  If you choose to go that route, please chop up your tree responsibly.  Hurting yourself is a bad way to end a holiday.

Celebrate responsibly.  When entertaining (or when being hosted by someone else), be very careful about keeping flammable items (paper plates/cups, napkins, alcoholic beverages) away from the kitchen stove/fireplace/heaters…  I will tell you with first hand knowledge that it is possible for guests to set used items on top of a gas range.  It is also possible for someone standing against it to accidentally bump a knob into the “light” position.  It is ALSO possible for nobody to understand the risk until there are open flames licking at the back of the person leaning against the stove.  Yes, I have seen it happen.  I also understand that this concept transfers to a number of scenarios including the fireplace and heaters mentioned previously.

NOTE TO HOMEOWNERS: This is a good time of year to do a safety inspection of the property and a little maintenance.  You can check for dangerous decorations as well as monitor the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.  While you are there, it is not a bad idea to pop in a new furnace filter and check out the winterization of the place to make sure it is sufficient.



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