Modifying Your Kitchen to help a visually impaired person

4 Kitchen Modifications for Someone with a Visual Impairment

With so much time spent in the kitchen and so many important tasks accomplished there, this is one room in your house that should take priority when you are making home accommodations for a loved one with a visual impairment. From contrasting colors to speaking timers, there are so many ways you can make the kitchen a more accessible place for your visually impaired loved one.

 

1. Create a High-Contrast Kitchen
People with vision impairment navigate the kitchen much more easily when there is a high color contrast. If your countertops and cabinets are similar colors, it is difficult for a person with a vision impairment to know when one ends and the other begins. It’s also difficult to distinguish cabinet doors and handles if they are similar in color and blend together. Consider installing new kitchen countertops to create a high-contrast kitchen; choose dark colors if you have light cabinets or light colors if you have dark cabinets. Also, consider the color of your kitchen sink and faucet and make sure they contrast with your countertops. If you already have dark countertops and a contrasting sink and faucet, consider painting your cabinets a light color to create a high-contrast kitchen.

It’s also important that your appliances, such as your dishwasher and range, contrast with your cabinets so your loved one with a visual impairment can easily locate them. Some manufacturers sell front panels for dishwashers in contrasting colors so you can swap your existing one for a new color. Another option is to get a dishwasher cover magnet that features a pattern or illustration to make it stand out from your cabinets.

Also, consider the colors of your cabinet door knobs and drawer handles. If they currently create a monochromatic color scheme, paint them or install new hardware that contrasts your cabinet and draw color. While you are modifying your cabinets and drawers, add strips of colored tape to door edges to make it easier for someone with a visual impairment to locate them. And, if the shelves inside your cabinets are similar in color to your dinnerware, paint them a contrasting color or install slip-proof shelf liners to make your dinnerware more visible.

 

2. Label Food
Because so many canned goods and dry goods come in containers of similar sizes and shapes, it is difficult for people with visual impairment to distinguish between various products. There are several ways you can help your loved one identify food in the kitchen, and the solution for you may come down to personal preference. Some families opt for simple solutions like placing rubber bands, file cards, or tactile dots on food items. Other families opt for talking label systems.

 

3. Modified Appliances
Of course, people with visual impairment want to be as independent as possible in the kitchen. Purchasing modified appliances helps to make that independence attainable. Some appliance manufacturers offer alternative labels, such as those in Braille, upon request. Other manufacturers offer talking appliances specifically designed for people with low or no vision. Talking microwave ovens and cooking thermometers are some of the more popular kitchen items for people with visual impairment. Other manufacturers offer products with tactile controls and features.

It’s also a good idea to know how various appliance controls are rated. The American Foundation for the Blind’s testing lab has created three categories for controls based on accessibility: accessible controls, inaccessible controls, and ambiguous controls. Accessible controls are the best for people with visual impairment because they allow them to feel and confirm settings while the appliance operates.

 

4. Food Preparation Safety
It’s always good to keep safety in mind when considering kitchen modifications for someone with a visual impairment. For example, purchase a cutting board that is light on one side and dark on the other to create a color contrast for whatever food needs to be cut. Finger guards are available to prevent cuts, or you can purchase knives that have cutting guards on them to make a certain size cut to food with each slice. Other options are using kitchen shears or a pizza cutter when preparing some foods.

 

With a few key modifications to your kitchen, you can ensure the independence and safety of someone with a visual impairment. High contrast colors, food labels, modified appliances, and safe cutting tools can make your kitchen much more accessible for your visually impaired loved one.

This blog provided to us by: Jackie Waters (Hyper-tidy.com)
Image via Pixabay by shadowfirearts

Home tips 101: Washing machines, Dryers and Dishwashers

Some quick tips about common appliances in your home, that can have many issues.  Lets take a look at each:

Washing Machine:

  • We highly suggest you connect your washing machine with braided hoses.  Connect these hoses from the faucet to the washer.  Regular rubber hoses can develop a bubble or aneurysm that can burst and leak water.
  • If you have washer that drains into a floor drain, we suggest buying an inexpensive PVC laundry tub.  Have your hose drain into the tub, then have your tub drain into the floor drain.  This prevents a large pool of water all over the floor.  If you sewer drain is higher then the washing machine you could then have the tub drain into an aftermarket ejector pit to pump the water up into the higher sewer drain.
  • If you have front end loaders, be sure to leave the door open after loads or when empty.  Be sure to run the “clean” cycle with bleach or vinegar once a month.  Drain your clean out on the bottom of the machine.  All this will help reduce mold growth.

Dryers:

  • Gas or Electric:  Be sure to check gas line, smell connections and shut off valves to make sure nothing is leaking.  If there is a gas line there but not in use, be sure the end is capped.  If you have an electric dryer, the outlet should be secured, the wire feeding the outlet should be concealed (in wall) or in conduit.
  • CLEAN YOUR DRYER VENT!   60-75% of the lint goes past the filter and travels through your vent.  This can build up and even cause fires.  Clean vent and exterior vent covers regularly.
  • Dryer vents should not exceed 20-25 feet in length and it is best to use rigid piping not plastic flex.
  • Check exterior vent cover.  Make sure it is working freely and that rodents or other critters can’t access into the vent.

Dish Washers:

  • Most people may not know but here is a screen on the drain in the bottom of the dishwasher.  Remove your lower rack and be sure to clean drain area regularly.
  • The drain hose from the dishwasher should at minimum be higher then where it connects into the sewer drain (most commonly under your kitchen sink.   The proper connection is to have what is called an “air-gap” connection.  If you dishwasher hose is directly connected to the garbage disposal or the sink drain, consult a plumber to rectify this connection.   An air-gap with prevent contamination.

 

Any questions you can always reach out to us.

 

Home Maintenance Checklist

Home ownership involve maintaining your home.  Small repairs and yearly maintenance can save your home from serious damage or deterioration.  Hence, saving you money in the long run.  We have put together some helpful tips and things for you to check yearly to keep your home in good condition.

Home Maintenance Checklist

Roof to wall with vinyl siding flashing trick!

Here is a great idea to correctly flash the pesky “roof to wall” connection.  This is were the end of the roof meets the house wall.   What happens here if not sealed or flashed properly, water runs down behind the siding or worst in the wall cavity.   This picture illustrates by sliding another small piece of siding under the last roof shingle tin, it diverts the water back out to the exterior side of the siding!    (The cord is from a Dish network cable)

roof-siding-flashing

They ran the J-channel past the end of the roof and kept the angle cut to the bottom of the siding, then slipped a small piece under the siding and shingle tin.  Mind you this isn’t the typical 6″ fascia end of the roof, but should work none the less.

Preparing your home for sale and inspection

Ready For Sale Guide by MK

If you are getting your home ready to sell your home, we have put together a guide to help you prepare.  The following are some helpful hints, suggestions and common items tagged by home inspectors.

 

General Appearance:

  • Make sure the home is clean and tidy for showings and the home inspection
  • Suggest having yard maintained for appearance.
  • Suggest kitchen area is clean and free from dishes lying around.
  • If any appliance is not functioning, please let your realtor know.
  • Make sure all light bulbs are working in the home.
  • Apply light switch and outlet covers if any are missing.
  • Repair any cracked windows.
  • Suggest having attic access free and clear for the home inspector.
  • NOTE: keep in mind during the home inspection, items are moved, tested, turned on/off. There may be some debris from attic access, water spray on floor from shower, etc., we try to keep it as we found it.  It is suggested to double check thermostat settings, door locks, and appliances to be sure something wasn’t left on by mistake.

 

Common items found by inspectors, some may be easy to take care of ahead of time:

Electrical:

  • As stated above, missing outlet covers and junction boxes. Install missing covers.  It’s cheap and easy.  Check in basement where there wires come together and are in a box, if you see exposed wires, apply a cover on the junction box.
  • GFCIs(the outlets with test buttons on them): Meeting today’s standards you need them in the garage, exterior outlets, 6’ from kitchen sink, bathrooms.  There are more instances but these locations are the most common.
  • Open breaker spaces in the electrical panel. Simply apply what is called a grommet available at the big box store, don’t even need to take the cover off (NOTE: write down the name of the panel you have,  eg: Square D, Cutlar Hammer, or Siemens, etc).
  • Try not to use extension cords.
  • Replace broken light fixtures.

 

Heating and Cooling:

  • Change your furnace filter.
  • If possible have heating system serviced, if it has not been done in the last 3 years.
  • Check outside next to your AC unit, you’ll see a black insulated pipe leading into your home, make sure the insulation is in good condition and it’s sealed around the pipes entering the home.
  • In general, sniff around the water heater and furnace area to smell for leaking gas.

 

 

 

Plumbing:

  • Clear any clogs or clean out traps on slow draining sinks.
  • Make sure your garbage disposal is free and clear of debris.
  • Gently, secure loose toilets (if you notice a stain around the base of the toilet you may want to replace the wax ring).
  • Peak under your sinks and generally look for any leaks or corrosion on shut off valves.
  • Make sure bath fans are working. They should also be vented directly to the exterior.
  • Clean dryer vent piping. Make sure exterior vent cover is intact and clear.
  • Backflow protection (recommendations):
    • If you only have basement floor drains, then suggest installing a backflow preventer in the drain
    • If you have a bathroom installed in the basement then it is recommend to have a check valve sometimes called a Palmer valve installed on the main sewer line.

 

Exterior:

  • Visually check exteriors. Seal around any pipes, vents or any holes.  Patch cracks in brick exteriors.
  • Check windows, seal gaps, check for rot or poor weather-strip.
  • Make sure downspouts from the gutters are extended and connected properly
  • Suggest cleaning out window wells, usually suggest apply covers over them.
  • Decks: Make sure deck is structurally sound, deck boards are in good shape and most importantly, railings are secured and spacing is small enough so a child cannot squeeze through. (was 5”, now it cannot be over 4” of spacing)

 

Interior:

  • IMPORTANT: Make sure you have at least one smoke and one CO detector on each level of your home.  Today’s standards also require a smoke alarm in each bedroom.
  • Apply hand rails at stairs.
  • Make sure fireplace is cleaned if wood burning. In working order if gas.
  • Painting and freshening up the walls can help, although not necessary.
  • Cleaning carpets and cleaning hard surfaces.
  • Seal or patch cracks drywall cracks if possible and touch up.
  • Try to fix minor holes in walls, sticky doors, loose laminate on counter tops, etc. The nicer you can make your home look, the more it shows you have cared for it.

 

Garage:

  • Attic access ladders. Most don’t know, but they are not fire rated and actually not allowed in new home construction.  With that said, it is recommend to fire rate the bottom of the ladder (we have an example on how to fire rate it under our blog section on your website mk-aa.com) –Attic access should be of drywall, not wood.
  • Patch any holes in garage walls that share the house walls or attic
  • Make sure garage door operates correctly and safety reverse system in installed.

 

 

 

 

Basement:

  • In general, look for cracks in foundation walls, most of the time they are not structural. If they are diagonal or opened more than a ¼” you may want a foundation specialist to look at them.
  • Seepage or leaks from cracks. If you basement smells damp or musty, seepage or leaks noted, it is suggested to contact a basement specialist to evaluate.
  • Cracks in the concrete floor are generally not a big deal.
  • Apply had rail on stairs. Suggest “filling” in any open sides of the stairs.
  • For structural issues, it is best to contact us to come check it out and give a recommendation.

 

 

 

Hopefully, this list can help with things that one may wish to take care of ahead of time to help reduce issues found after a home inspection.   If you have any questions or would like us to do a visual or pre-inspection please contact us.

Pull Down Attic Access Ladders

I would like share some information to everyone about these easy to use pull down ladders.  They are awesome for getting into the attic space to store stuff.  The unfortunate thing about the ladders are that they compromise the fire rated ceiling in the garage space.   What this means is that you (normally) have 5/8″ drywall on the garage ceiling to separate the attic space from the garage for fire related reasons.  The bottom of the ladder is only (most of the time) 1/4″ plywood and does not have a fire rating.  Thus, compromising the garage ceiling.  Sometimes there is even a gap from the pull down frame to the cut out drywall that should also be filled in or covered.  The main thing is, you should not have any open penetrations to the attic in your garage ceiling.

One of the easiest ways to do it so the ladder springs are not stressed by the weight of the drywall.  Build a frame out of 1×4’s and have the drywall slide out of the way.

 

Another options is listed below:

20161012_154217 Pull down ladder with drywall screwed to the bottom of the plywood and a wood frame built around it.  You will notice there is another wood frame around the actual hole in the ceiling.

 

 

 

 

 

20161012_154027 Here is a wood frame built around the hole in the ceiling that is out from the frame so the drywall on the bottom of the door can fit over the pull down ladder frame when closed.

 

 

 

 

 

20161012_154207

 

So when the ladder is closed, the drywall fits inside the ceiling frame and the door frame bumps up to it.

 

 

 

 

 

20161012_154014 Here is a close up.  You can see the drywall on the bottom of the ladder door.  Then the wood frame protrudes past the drywall to hit against the frame on the ceiling.   This particular individual also added some weather strip foam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact us if you have any questions or other suggestions we can post.

Plumbing

Information found on home inspections related to plumbing issues that we find.

  • S-Trap type drain: what it looks like, suggest having plumber vent it properly (Video)
  • Lead water main:  Check out this map of Green Bay to see if you home has lead water main.
  • Sewer Mains:  This is the piping that leads from your clean out in the basement (usually by the water meter) out to the street, discharging the homes sewage.  It is suggested that older homes (generally 50+) and with trees along the street have the main sewer surveyed via camera.  This can reveal damaged piping, tree root issues, or clogs.  Generally cost about $200.

Issues With Older Electrical Panels

Listed below are some electrical panels that are usually marked “defective” on a home inspection.  In most cases, the panels should be evaluated by an electrician and upgraded.

  • Fuse Style Panels:  These panels are very old and have pull out fuses for mains and screw in fuses for circuits.  Wiring in the home is usually a 2 wire system with no grounds.  Most insurance companies will not give home owners insurance with this type of panel.    This type of panel is usually 60amp, but have seen some 70amp and 100amp (pictured).
    Fuse style panel

    Fuse style panel

     

  • FPE Panels:  This particular panel is an older upgrade from the above pictured panel.  It was installed in some homes from 1950’s to 1990.  A quick google search will reveal the issues with this type of panel.  It has been deemed “unsafe” in most cases, as the breakers have been known not to trip and overheat.   Although extensive searches reveals no true evidence on the failure rate compared to other panels.  Due to age and known issues, it is highly suggested to have the panel evaluated by an electrician and in most cases it is upgraded.  Since most of these are already 100amp, it’s just a matter of changing the panel.
    FPE Panel

    FPE Panel

     

  • Push-Matic Panels:  Similar to the FPE panel as far as having issues with the breakers.  The difference is with the breakers being of a “push” style instead of a “lever”.  This also is an older style panel that should be evaluated and again in most cases upgraded.
    Push-Matic Panel

    Push-Matic Panel

In summary,  if you have any one of these in your home, we suggest having an electrician take a look at it.  Another issue is because these panels are older and we start having the need for more circuits in our homes, they have limited room (circuits) and we find a lot of double tapping.  This is when two wires are connected to one breaker.  This situation also needs to be repaired by an electrician.

 

 

Roofs and common issues

We’ll post information about roofing and other related issues pertaining to the roof found on our home inspections.

  • Plumbing vents and brick chimney issues.  Home inspection in De Pere  (video)
  • Hail damage.  These “dents” can cause the protective granules on your shingles to “pop” off leaving the backer portion of the shingle exposed.   If you only have a few marks, seal with tar and you can rub some granules from an extra shingle into the tar to conceal the patch.   To many in one area can deteriorate the roof and a roofing contractor should evaluate your roof.
    What hail damage can look like:

    20160926_173340

    Hail damage to the shingle, caused the protective surface granules to fall off.

    20160926_174832

    Close up view of some hail damage. This dent caused damage to the shingles backer matting that will eventually deteriorate and leak, if not sealed or repaired.

    20160926_174757

    Ten hits or dents in a 10′ x 10′ area usually means the roof should be replaced. Have your roof evaluated if a storm happened in your area.

     

  • Sealing B-vent or metal pipe drip collars:  We suggest sealing around these drip collars, as water can run down along the flue where it’s crimped and leak into attic.  Simply seal with   a  good silicon caulk.   drip-collar-on-vent-pipe