Safeguarding your property for holidays

As the congested highways and busy airports around Australia will prove later this month, the Christmas – New Year period is a time when many of us decide to travel away for an annual holiday.

But there is more involved in preparing for that annual trip than simply packing enough beach towels or finding minders for the family cat.

Burglars are opportunistic in their activity; during Christmas, they are on the prowl. Here are some tips to better protect your home during the holiday season.

Check and secure all locks & look like you’re at home

If you have faulty locks on any doors or windows or other entry points, replace them before you head off on your travels. When leaving, double check that all the locks are secured, and have another family member check as well.

Lock the back and side gates, activate your security system and bring the spare key that you have hidden outside, back indoors.

Mow your lawn just before leaving, lock the garage and shed, and keep the second car, if you have one, in the driveway.

Make your home look occupied

Thieves are drawn to dark spaces to hide their activity. Consider installing outside motion detector sensor lights to come on if anyone walks up your path or near windows. Add timer switches to some of your internal lights so they come on automatically for a period of time each night. Adding one to the TV is also a good idea as the noise makes it sound like someone is home.

Monitor your home from your holiday

Modern IP monitored security systems allow homeowners to arm and disarm their alarm system remotely, receive instant notification of security breaches, manage and automate home appliances and visually check in your home. This is a smart (but expensive) way to enhance your home security but may be worth considering.

Cancel the post and deliveries

Having Christmas cards spilling out of the mailbox is an obvious sign no one is home. Think about redirecting or getting a hold put on your mail. And cancel newspaper deliveries, or ask your next door neighbour to take the newspaper off the front lawn.

Carefully discard Christmas packaging

Whilst you may be excited about the new large screen television sitting under the tree, and just as excited to get the bulky packaging it came in out of the house. But displaying the cardboard box it came in, complete with its make and style on the front kerb next to the garbage bin is bait for thieves. The better idea is to rip up the cardboard box into various pieces and place in a black plastic bag before the next garbage collection.

Don’t be too social

While the holidays are a time for us all to enjoy each other’s company, be circumspect in how you share your adventures.

Displaying Instagram photos from New York or checking in to your Facebook account from Fiji lets everyone know you’re not home. Don’t rely on privacy settings on social media to protect your home. Wait until you’ve returned home, then share your holiday snaps.

Talk to your trusted neighbours

Letting your neighbours know you will be away during the holidays and that they can contact you if anything was to happen to your property is a good idea. If you have a good relationship with them, ask them to keep an eye on your place, bring in your garbage bins after you’ve left and collect the mail.

Check your insurance

Before you head off on holidays it’s worth making sure your home and contents insurance is up to date and paid. It would be horrendous if you were robbed to find out you hadn’t paid your latest instalment.

Secure levels up high

First floor entry points are often easier to access for criminals and they know this. Toeholds such as external air conditioners and window grills can help robbers gain access to upper levels. So make sure all the windows and doors are locked securely.

Highrise apartments are not always safe either. While you may think you live 10 stories up, you are really only one storey above the balcony below yours. So don’t get complacent, lock your apartment up securely – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Prepare your Home for Summertime Fun

Cool down indoors

Direct sun beaming through windows can feel like you have a heater on. Close all the windows and shut any blinds and curtains during the hottest part of the day. When the temperature starts to drop open up the house again so it can cool down for the evening. Turn on ceiling and pedestal fans to get the air moving and pushing the warm air out.

Prepare for storms

Now is the time of year when thunderstorms strike. Get your home ready by checking for cracks, leaks, or deterioration in any caulking around windows and doors. Replace any worn caulk using an appropriate sealant with a caulk gun, available from hardware stores. Any small leaks in the roof can become big leaks when there is lots of water coming down. Fix any problems before they become unmanageable.

Banish bugs

Pests can ruin a relaxing afternoon and as the weather warms up the bugs get busier and don’t mind wandering inside. Spray around windows, doors and the house foundations with a barrier insecticide and this should hopefully create a no go zone for bugs. Inside the house spray around doors, kitchen kickboards, under sinks and around windows. Fly screens on windows and doors let the breeze in and keep the pests out.

Rejuvenate windows

Plenty of time is spent looking in and out of windows when the weather is warm. If your trims are looking a little tired it might be worth sprucing them up, it’s amazing the difference this small task can make. Sand back the old paint and wipe down. Use painter’s tape to avoid getting paint on the windowpanes then brush on a couple of coats for a fresh new look.

Cull the frozen goods

If your fridge and freezer are groaning with Tupperware, now is the time to start using up all the bits and pieces to make space for holiday entertaining. Don’t take chances with food that is past its best. When in doubt, throw it out! A rough guide to how long you can store food is, fresh meat 1-2 days in the fridge and 3-4 months in the freezer, fresh fish 1-2 days in the fridge and 2-3 months in the freezer and cooked leftovers 3-4 days in the fridge and 2-3 months in the freezer.

BBQ preparation

Once a year you should to do a thorough clean on your bbq to keep it in top condition. Disconnect the gas then lift everything out and clean the parts in warm soapy water. Bigger Equity can help. Replace ceramic briquettes as old ones can have a build up of fat and food that can make cooking taste bad. Replace everything and make sure it is connected properly. Let the bbq heat for a while so it burns any soap residue off then you’re ready to get grilling.

Mulch garden beds

Keep moisture in the soil and weeds out by covering garden beds with a 70-100mm layer of mulch. Choose mulch that breaks down to add organic matter to the soil such as sugar cane, pine bark or lucerne. Water in deeply so rain penetrates the mulch layer and gets into the soil. Another advantage of mulch is it keeps the soil a fairly even temperature so plant roots don’t get frozen or fried.

Clean out gutters

A tedious but necessary job to do before summer sets in is to clear gutters of leaf litter. You can save your house from ember attacks during bushfires. Get a sturdy ladder, bucket, work gloves and some rags to remove dirt build up in the bottom of gutters. Work your way around the house removing any leaves or debris and fixing any holes or damage as you go.

Grow a green lawn

Watering turf during times of limited rainfall and regular mowing helps keep your lawn growing strongly. The best time to irrigate is in the morning or late afternoon, this gives the grass time to soak up the moisture before it gets too hot. Feed by sprinkling lawn food on a damp grass and water in well. Turf roots can burn on a hot day if fertiliser is not watered in thoroughly.

Plant for flavor and color

Plant all the herbs you’ll need for your Christmas feast now. Parsley, chives, basil and mint are all essential and by growing your own you can just pick what you need and waste none. Add some Christmas colour with bright dahlias, gerberas and zinnias and plant gardenias, star jasmine and roses to fill the warm evening air with their floral perfume.