Prepare your home for winter

Winter is almost here, and the season may include extreme cold in your area. For first-time homeowners, preparing for a big freeze, an ice storm, or even a blizzard can require a little more than simply having a few shovels on hand. Check out these important tasks to do before Jack Frost arrives in your neighborhood.

Stock a Winter Emergency Kit

You might have an all-purpose supply kit in your home, but is it stocked with items specifically for extreme cold? In addition to the standard emergency supplies of food, water and medication for everyone in your household (including pets), suggests stocking supplies that include windshield scrapers, additional hats and gloves, and road salt and sand. In the event of a loss of power, the website also suggests using a battery-operated radio that receives broadcasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio All Hazards network to stay up to date on any developments in the forecast.

Inspect Your Furnace

There’s more to winterizing your home than cranking up the heat at the first sign of cold weather. The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends servicing and repairing your furnace before cold weather reaches your area. In addition, suggests scheduling a maintenance check of your furnace in the fall, before the cold weather arrives in force. The website also recommends checking your filter every month and replacing it if it’s dirty, with the filter replaced every three months at minimum. As noted by, a dirty filter may impede a furnace from working efficiently.

Clear Outside Banisters, Stairs and Sidewalks

The outdoor features of your home may require some maintenance, too, especially if your area sees a significant amount of snow in addition to extreme freezing temperatures. Homeowners should repair or replace outside stairs, railings or banisters that could present a hazard in case of ice or snow, according to the III. You may need to clear your sidewalk of ice and snow, too, but don’t grab that shovel just yet. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), advises that you follow your doctor’s advice regarding strenuous work like shoveling, and to work slowly and dress warmly. The organization also advises dressing in layers and to keep your clothing dry while you work outdoors, as wet clothing in extreme cold weather can chill your body.

Drain Your Pipes Before a Vacation

If your winter plans include a vacation to a warm and sunny spot, then you’ll want to prepare your home for potential extreme cold temperatures while you’re gone. After all, who wants to return home to frozen pipes? To help prevent pipes from freezing while you’re on vacation, suggests turning off your main waterline before you leave, then turning on the faucets to drain the pipes and release pressure and to turn off any exterior pipes, too. The website also recommends that homeowners disconnect and store garden hoses, and to shut off and drain any external faucets. Exposed pipes should be insulated, with USA Todayrecommending the use of foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves.

Stay Safe if the Heat Goes Out

Extreme cold may occur alongside blizzards and strong wind, and those weather conditions may result in a power outage. How can you stay warm if you don’t have power? You should use caution when trying to find an alternate heat source. For example, the CDC advises against using a gas range or oven to heat your home due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Got a fireplace? According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), make sure to use a metal screen in front of the fireplace opening to prevent embers from falling out of the fireplace, and to keep you and your family safe from the flames. Don’t strike that match just yet—the USFA also recommends inspecting and cleaning the chimney every year before using your fireplace.

Hit the Road—if it’s Safe

You might need to leave your home to check on elderly or sick relatives during a period of extreme cold. Before you leave your home, advises making sure your car is ready for winter driving, and to verify that roads are clear and safe to drive by checking your planned route via the U.S Department of Transportation’s website. Finally, take a few minutes to review winter driving tips if your area has seen some snow and ice.

How to Build a Concrete Fire Pit

Cool, crisp fall nights are perfect for gathering around a backyard fire pit with your friends and family. Add in a bag of marshmallows and you have the recipe for a lovely evening. While elaborate (and expensive) fire pits are what are typically featured in glossy magazines, s’mores and memories can just as easily be made around a simple, but still attractive, backyard fire pit. Before you begin, it is important to consider permanent vs portable, wood or gas, the design of the fire pit and where to set it up.

Steve Chepurny, a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects and president of Beechwood Landscape Architecture in New Jersey, details how to build a fire pit in six steps.

What you need:

  • Cement

  • Fire-rated mortar

  • Fire-rated brick

  • Decorative stone or brick

  • 12-inch galvanized steel pipe

  • Gravel

  • Cinder block (approximately 75-90 blocks depending on the size)


  • Dig a hole 42 inches deep in the shape of your fire pit design and lay 6 inches of gravel.

  • Prepare the cement according to the package directions and pour concrete footing 10 inches thick with a small hole open in the center for drainage. Let the cement set for 24 hours.

  • Create the frame structure using cinder block and build it 18 inches above the top of the ground. Put stone or brick on the outside of the fire pit according to the directions of the material selected.

  • Fill the inside of the fire pit with gravel up to 20 inches from the top of the fire pit.

  • Pour a concrete floor following the package directions leaving a hole in the center. Place a galvanized pipe in the hole for drainage and cover the top with a cap.

  • Cover the floor and side of the fire pit with fire rate brick using fire-rated mortar.

  • Once it is dry, you are ready to invite your friends over and get the marshmallows ready for a memorable fall evening.

    Since fire can damage property and injure people, be sure that you keep safety at the top of mind during every step of the building process. And no matter what design you pick or color stone you use, it is important that children are supervised very closely whenever a fire is in the fire pit and that the path around the fireplace is clear to prevent tripping. A little bit of precaution can keep your family safe and spending time together around the fire pit for years to come.

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2015 Photoshop World Expo & Conference

I would like to invite and suggest that you attend the Photoshop World Conference & Expo in Las Vegas August 11-15, 2015. It will be held at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. I will be attending with a booth in the expo hall. Between the amazing classes, workshops, and guest speakers please take a few minutes and stop by to see me. As an expert in small business photographers insurance, I would be honored to provide you with a customized policy designed just for your business risk exposures. I am licensed in California, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona, to provide photographers insurance products. If you need an insurance proposal prepared please provide your information

Our insurance programs offer general liability insurance, professional errors & omissions liability insurance, and a seldom considered "failure to deliver photographic liability insurance. I would be happy to speak with you to explain these and other photography insurance coverage. Please call 801-451-8880. Howard Burkholz

The Benefits of an Annual Insurance Review

Many homeowners purchase an insurance policy when they first move in, but they may not understand the importance of periodically reviewing it or reassessing their needs. It's an oversight that can ultimately lead to a gap in their coverage. 

For instance, you may have insured your home for $200,000 when you first bought it. A decade later, your home may cost $300,000 to rebuild. That's a $100,000 gap in coverage—which could leave you without the proper resources to rebuild in the event of a loss. 

A home renovation or upgrade is another reason you may want an insurance review. It can help ensure that your home and belongings are fully protected, and that your coverage is keeping up with your current needs. Everything from new furniture to a kitchen upgrade can affect the value of your family's home, and may even qualify you for additional discounts on your insurance policy. 

One way to evaluate your needs is to conduct a home inventory, a detailed catalogue of all your possessions. There are tools and even smartphone home inventory apps, like Digital Locker, that can streamline the process.

Howard M Burkholz 801-451-8880

Howard M Burkholz 801-451-8880