13 garage mistakes that could put you in danger
This often-overlooked home space can be full of hazards. Try these tips to make it safer for you and your family.
Garages are the place people tend to store the most dangerous chemicals in their homes – including flammable liquids like petrol and toxic ones like antifreeze. Make sure chemicals are stored far away from items that could create a spark, especially hot water heaters, lawnmowers, and grills. And don’t forget to place them far out of reach of kids.
Garages make perfect homes for mice, rats and other pests – it’s sheltered, quiet, and in many homes, rarely used. And if you add in a few items that make for cosy nests or great sources of food, you’ll have a hard time evicting them. “First, you need to regularly clean the dark corners and crevices that make for cosy animal homes,” says Vanessa Thorn, a health and safety advisor at Lock Up Garages. “Sealing off any cracks or gaps in the garage structure will likely put off most animals from making an entrance. Avoid storing food if you can, or put open food bags in sealed boxes or containers to seal the smell inside.” If you’re storing fabric, like old sheets or rags in your garage, make sure they’re in well-sealed containers to avoid creating the perfect nest for some unwanted guests.
Heavy garage doors can cause injuries or even death – which is why automatic garage door openers feature sensors that keep them from closing on you. “Periodically test the garage door safety sensors – it’s an important preventative maintenance task you should do a few times year,” says John Bodrozic, co-founder of Homezada.com. “The best way to test them is to grab a broom and, with the door open, click on the opener to start closing the door. Then wave your broom near the floor where it should break the light sensor. If it is working correctly, the door will stop closing and reverse itself to open. If the door keeps closing, your light sensors need to be fixed or replaced.”
Garages tend to be the destination for unused furniture, but converting that unstable shelving to garage storage is asking for trouble. The last thing anyone wants is to have old paint cans or garden shears drop on them. Stick with sturdy, deep shelving that suits the items you’re storing. And don’t forget that nothing lasts forever – including storage. “Hooks and shelves have a shelf life,” Thorn says. “You should maintain all shelf components and avoid any corrosion of metal. Always avoid overloading shelves, too, as that is a sure way for accidents to happen!”
You may have every corner of your home locked and guarded against little ones, but most families neglect to do the same for their garage – where enticing and dangerous items tend to lurk. Maintain the same level of care you bring to childproofing your house to your garage: Put dangerous chemicals and tools – like antifreeze, fertilisers, and petrol – in high, locked cabinets.
When the weather’s ruining your barbecue, it can be tempting to do grill duty undercover. But that can put you at risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. If the weather isn’t cooperating, stick with a grill pan on your stove, or grab an umbrella.
From a coil of extension cord to a spill of cleaning products, there are plenty of things in your garage that could literally trip you up. “Keeping a busy, cramped garage is unwise,” Thorn says. “It’s not so much tripping that is the cause of concern; it’s what may fall on top of you, or what you may fall into.”
“A worrying number of home fires start from within a garage,” Thorn says. “They also tend to spread a lot quicker due to flammable materials and fire starters that are stored in a garage. Therefore, they’re more likely to cause a lot of damage within a short time. Don’t forget about your garage when you are installing fire alarms and smoke detectors in the rest of your house. A fire that is discovered early is less likely to do too much damage.”
It may be convenient to leave that power saw plugged in and ready to go for your next workshop session, but that makes it all too easy for the tool to be accidentally switched on – or create a potential fire hazard if an animal starts chewing at the wires. “Insects and rodents can get inside your garage and chew on your bare wires,” says Thorn. “You may not realise rodents have damaged your wires until you come to use them… and at that stage, it can be too late.”
Find out more about tool safety for DIYers.
It can be tempting to leave the garage doors unlocked to avoid having to carry one more key, but not securing your garage increases the likelihood you’ll be burgled. Leaving entry to an attached garage allows the burglar a safe, hidden place to try to pick the lock of your interior door. And whether it’s an attached or detached garage, you open yourself to theft of bikes and other equipment – and you may provide the tools, like ladders, clippers and screwdrivers, that a burglar can use to gain entrance to your home.
That gas tank that powers your summer barbecues can become explosive relatively easily. Even a small leak can ignite with a spark from the grill or the mower. It’s best to store it in a sheltered area away from your house, such as a garden shed.
Garages are the place to stash those “just-in-case” items, things that are ready for the garbage, and things that you only need once or twice a year. This can quickly pile up to create a messy – and hazardous – situation. Too much stuff in your garage can lead to all kinds of disasters – fire danger, tripping and falling hazards and pest control issues. Take an hour or two regularly to go through what’s in your garage, and weed out the things you no longer need.
Even with the garage doors open, running the car in your garage can lead to deadly carbon monoxide build-up – which can permeate your house quickly if your garage is attached. Move the car out of the garage as quickly as possible – and make sure that you have carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home (including your garage).
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