Home improvement projects are always a convenient time to reassess your current home features, especially capabilities pertaining to security and safety. Undertaking renovation projects can expose your home and family to many unforeseen hazards such as: fire; water damage; burglary; invasion of privacy; and bodily harm, including even death. We live in an unpredictable and often dangerous world, where protecting ourselves and our families are paramount to daily life. Here are some preventative measures to take before you begin your remodeling project.
Reminders of the Danger that Renovations Present
A Common Theft Scenario:
In August of 2019, an Ohio woman reported that two necklaces and five rings were missing from her jewelry box. She stated that a company had been working on renovations inside her home at the time. Police were given the name of an employee who the woman suspected may have stolen the items, according to a police report.
A More Disturbing Incident of Privacy Being Invaded:
An Austin man is accused of placing a hidden camera in his neighbor’s bathroom and using it to capture private images of undress and nudity. Police say they were first introduced to the case in March 2019, when one of the suspect’s neighbors discovered a camera in their bathroom during home renovations. During demolition, a cut-out hole was discovered behind the bathroom mirror. Behind the hole and insulation, a camera was found plugged into an electrical outlet police believe the accused installed.
Police arrested 50-year-old Michael Sagues and at a press conference, Austin Police Assistant Chief Jennifer Stephenson said Sagues has been charged with burglary with intent to commit invasive recording. Court documents indicate he has been charged with first degree burglary of habitation. Austin police also think that there are additional victims.
Lastly and Sadly, an Extreme Case of Violence that Led to Death:
A construction worker faces six felony counts, including capital murder, in the death of Chyong Jen Tsai of Arcadia, California. Heber Enoc Diaz, 27, a Pasadena resident accused in Tsai’s death, was scheduled to be arraigned this week. According to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Diaz is being held without bail, and if convicted as charged, faces a maximum of life in state prison without parole. Also charged are Luise Alonso Cruz Gaitan of Altadena and Isis Odina Villalobos of Pasadena, who faces a felony count of accessory after the fact.
“Diaz had been employed by a contractor doing renovations at Tsai’s home, but was no longer working there when the crimes occurred”, Deputy District Attorney Miriam Avalos of the Elder Abuse Unit said in release. “Diaz allegedly was burglarizing Tsai’s garage when he encountered the victim and killed her”, Avalos has alleged.
Planning for Safety
Before reviewing our list of products that will help make your upcoming renovation project safer, we strongly recommend reading the following project planning articles. The most important variable to reduce risk and danger is to hire a reputable contractor and perform all necessary background checks before engaging any person on a project in your home.
Additionally, having a well-written contract with specific safety requirements for your project and job site is also imperative. The contract should always include details on safety and security expectations for the job, including such things as: no smoking; approved work hours; daily clean up; names and licenses of subcontractors; and areas off limits to workers. Homeowners and contractors should also work together to keep tools and materials secure during non-working hours. A sloppy work site can draw the attention of professional thieves and further put your family’s safety at risk.
- How to Choose a Qualified & Trustworthy Contractor
- Essential Elements of a Home Renovation Contract
- Protection & Safety for Your Home Renovation Project
Be Present as Much as Possible
Another key element of safety and security is to be present during as many project working hours as possible. At a minimum, you should prioritize the phases and specific tasks that are most important to be on-site. Examples of tasks for which you should be present include: demolition; plumbing; electrical; and inspections. Besides allowing you the immediacy to assess situations as they unfold, being onsite will allow you to confirm if systems are returned to proper working order (e.g. plumbing and electrical) prior to the work crew leaving for the day.
If work and other responsibilities severely limit one’s ability to be at the job site, we recommend considering hiring an independent project manager to serve as an on-site proxy for you. Having another set of eyes, ears and voice present can help catch or mitigate disastrous accidents and mistakes from occurring.
Products & Services for Security and Safety
The primary categories of security and safety products to assess prior to launching your home improvement project include:
- Comprehensive Home Security Solutions & Services
- Security Alarms and Cameras
- Smart Locks
- Emergency Detection Systems
- Detectors and Sensors
- Safety Storage cContainers
- Fire Extinguishers
Whether you currently have some or all of these products in use, the unique requirements of your project may warrant adjusting, upgrading or replacing some or all of these solutions. At a minimum, you will need to assess what changes should be made to accommodate the needs of your project.
Having a strong home security set up is a first line of defense for protecting your assets, both human and physical. Surveillance systems can also provide evidence should you need to review what occurred on your property, often as far back as a month.
For those unsure where to begin, we recommend first considering a comprehensive service, such as ADT, to get familiar with features, pricing and overall required commitment. If these solutions seem to be more than you initially need, you can start by considering affordable, easy-to-use products to build out your home security system organically.
Comprehensive Home Security Solutions and Services
Full-service vendors are worth considering for homeowners who have the budget and desire to invest in a robust solution for at least a few years. These vendors may also be a better fit for homeowners wishing not to take a DIY approach to their home security and who need guidance on which options to choose. However, there are vendors that provide less-costly, full solutions with DIY installation options, as well. Homeowners that have limited budgets or specific and immediate needs may prefer to try a piecemeal approach to their home security.
Keep in mind that companies offering full security solutions typically have the following requirements: professional installation; long minimum contract terms; monthly subscription fees; and less flexibility in terms of integrated technology.
When comparing full solutions, you will want to consider several key criteria against your prioritized list of key needs.
Features to Consider for Home Security Systems:
- Ease-of-Use: control panels; remotes; mobile apps; automation; handling multiple users
- Fail Safe Reliability: battery backup; can work without Internet connection; tamper resistance; etc.
- Detectors & Sensors: Motion; Fire; Carbon Monoxide; Water; Temperature; Motion; Broken Glass
- 24/7 Monitoring: DIY; Human Staff; Technology Assisted; Predictive Detection
- Integration with Local Emergency Response Teams: Fire; Police; protocol to confirm real emergencies
- Tech Compatibility: Alexa; Google Home; other Smart Home hubs; integration with 3rd party vendors
- Costs: Equipment; Activation Fee; Monthly Subscription Fee; Contract Period; Early termination fees
- Flexibility & Options: DIY install; Self-Monitoring; System Adaptability; No Contracts; Ample Accessories and Feature Options; etc.
- Company Stability & Reputation: established; growing; or startup; large support group of professionals and retailers
- Risk: Money-Back Guarantee; Warranty
- Installation Type: DIY; Professional; or Both
Vendors with Comprehensive Home Security Solutions for Non-DIYers:
Popular, best-known and well established. Wide range of packages and options can be chosen, from traditional solutions to smart home integration and advanced video capabilities. Requires a 3-year minimum contract.
Advanced Smart Home technology, integration and automation. Definitely consider if voice recognition is important and having a robust set of technical features. Has a very long contract term requirement of 5 years, with exceptions for active military personnel.
An innovator that leverages Artificial Intelligence to provide proactive crime prevention and detection, with live 24/7 monitoring by humans. They help increase response times, while reducing false alarms. They also have 2-way speakers to communicate with persons on your property.
Robust security offerings within an advanced Smart Home platform. Proactive 3rd party vendor partnership integration approach to be able to use popular Smart Home brands and solutions. Not available in all states.
Robust offerings and packages from which to choose. Good support to manage system evolution. Limited availability, with high-speed Internet required. Internet access does not need to be provided by AT&T, however.
Vendors with Comprehensive Home Security Solutions for DIYers:
Robust and cost-effective DIY solution that offers a lot of flexibility, both in packages and subscription services. Known for being easy to install and use. A no-monthly fee option is available for DIY monitoring, while premium subscriptions are month-to-month with no minimum contract terms. Considered to be a great overall value.
Known for being a robust DIY solution with great customer service that is easy to install. Their tagline is “safe, simple and smart”. Their system arrives pre-programmed and is guaranteed to work right out of the box. Requires a longer than average contract at 3 years.
Renovations notwithstanding, security cameras around your home are a must. Even if you choose to have only one camera pointing at your front door, a security camera can provide peace of mind when you are away from your property. This is especially important if you have minors home without adult supervision, during the summer months.
If you plan to have contractors at your home unsupervised by you, invest in a home surveillance system that allows you to record and monitor their activities. Security cameras also act as deterrents for unlawful behavior and may be just the right solution for ensuring that corners are not cut, and that order is being maintained on your property.
If you already have preexisting surveillance equipment on the premises, make sure that the areas that will be open to the construction crew are covered by the cameras. If you need to increase your coverage or re-purpose existing devices, then it should be completed before the project officially begins. Make sure to review security footage at least once a week and report any concerns to the general contractor.
Sales of home security cameras have exploded recently due to the ease by which they can be self-installed, low cost, and their ease and flexibility of use. Applications that allow the user to control cameras and view from a remote location have also been eagerly adopted, as the value of being able to watch your property from afar is just now being realized. Customers have a choice of internet based cameras or non-internet based (DVR), depending on their storage preferences and data privacy concerns.
Smart Home/Internet-based Cameras
Companies such as Ring and Nest clearly dominate in the Smart Home or internet-based category for DIY home security, but a lesser known brand, SimpliSafe, is becoming a disruptor. In a recent ADT survey conducted on 1,000 consumers, 83.8% agreed that convenience was the number one reason for their smart home security purchase. Of this same group, 37% sighted Family/Home security as the top reason for their purchase of internet based devices. Fifty-five percent of parents, who responded, cited that home protection was more important to them than data privacy concerns that arise with usage of internet-connected devices.
SimpliSafe is also popular with house-flippers, as it can work directly with mobile phones, without needing internet service, if cameras are not used.
Benefits & Features: Fast dispatch time by police; low cost; can handle power and Wi-Fi outages; can detect fires and water damage; live professional alerts; HD security cameras. Known for its affordability and flexibility. Integrations with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Watch and August locks.
Limitations: Camera cannot pan or zoom; camera image quality not 1080p HD; no 2-way audio; no local storage; no AI (Artificial intelligence); mobile app
Subscriptions: $14.99/month, Professional 24/7 Monitoring, no contract
Additional SimpliSafe Packages & Accessories:
Sensors for every window and door. Motion sensors.Security Camera. No contracts. 24/7 alarm monitoring. No phone line needed. Deep encryption.
Has water sensor, temperature/freeze sensor and smoke detector.
SimpliSafe Wi-Fi Video Doorbell (Amazon)
SimpliSafe Product Collection (BestBuy)
SimpliSafe “Classic” (Target)
SimpiSafe 8 Piece (Amazon)
Non-Internet Based Cameras
Perhaps the most common user of non-internet based security cameras are banks. Cameras are connected to a locally stored DVR (Digital Video Recorder), which can be programmed to record only when there is motion detected. Although the storage on these devices has improved, the consumer is limited to a fixed amount of space before data must be deleted to free up for continued recording. Brands such as ProVue, ZOSI and Night Owl offer a number of features, products and accessories that will give you comfort in knowing that your data is limited to access on the secured DVR, on your own private network.
Construction projects by their very nature result in an unusual number of strangers coming and going from your residence, often for an extended period of time. Depending on the extent of the renovation, you may be living in unsecured surroundings for up to one year. A solution to this challenge is the installation of keyless locks, also known as digital or smart locks. These devices make it very easy to lock or unlock doors and change locks (by simply changing a code) onsite and via remote access.
From an audit perspective, these products allow you to provide different codes for each individual or trade to track who has entered your home. Most importantly, you stay in control of your home’s access by also having the ability to set times throughout the day for doors to be locked or unlocked.
Schlage Encode Smart WiFi Deadbolt (Amazon)
Benefits & Features: Lock/unlock from anywhere via Wi-Fi access; no additional accessories required; manage up to 100 access codes for recurring, temporary or permanent access; one-touch locking; optional voice control offers hands-free convenience when using voice-enabled products; built-in alarm technology; easy installation; fits standard doors; requires 2.4GHz WiFi network
Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt (Amazon)
Benefits & Features: Easy installation; fits standard pre-drilled doors; battery-operated no hardwiring required and works during power outages; built-in alarm technology; holds up to 30 access codes; can be paired with your smartphone through Bluetooth; lock can be updated with Schlage Sense app.
Limitations: Not Wi-Fi enabled. Need to purchase Schlage Sense Wi-Fi Adapter separately.
August Smart Lock Pro + Connect (Amazon)
Benefits & Features: Works with Alexa for voice control; control and monitor door from anywhere; keyless and automated lock and unlock with phone; keep track of who comes and goes; program, assign and track specific access times to codes used by external persons; has open/closed sensor (DoorSense); easy installation; works with existing keys.
Limitations: Activity feed requires iOS (9.0 or higher) or Android (5.0 or higher) smartphones.
Detectors and Sensors for Fire, Water and Carbon Monoxide (CO2)
Fire Detection Sensors for fire, carbon monoxide and water leaks are a smart way to detect potentially catastrophic events before they happen. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), between the years 2010 and 2014, 3,750 fires occurred in homes under construction, while another 2,560 homes under major renovation, caught fire. The direct property damage or annual losses from these types of fires were $172 million and $108 million, respectively. These types of fires are usually caused by heating equipment, smoking materials, operating equipment, such as soldering irons or torches, and cooking equipment.
Water damage during renovations is another issue that can be a headache as the homeowner’s insurance provider battles the contractor’s insurance provider for assigning liability of damages.
If your contractor accidentally causes a flood on your property during a contracted renovation project, your homeowners insurance may cover the cost of repairs. However, it would be in your best interest to verify a contractor’s adequate insurance coverage before you sign any contracts to make sure your premiums are not increased due to his negligence.
In any event, once walls are closed up and painting has commenced, your contractor is still on the hook for any lurking damage that might become apparent for the length of his warranty. Once the project is officially completed, it would be prudent to invest in a moisture meter or water sensor, to make sure that leaks are not present after the fact.
Slow leaks can cause moisture problems that, if left unabated, can lead to peeling paint, damage to floors below or adjacent rooms, watermarks, staining, and mold. A moisture meter will provide the peace of mind needed, as the sooner you identify and rectify a situation, the potential damage will be reduced.
Standalone Water Sensors that Only Need to Connect to Wi-Fi:
Example Water and Flood Sensors from Full Solution Security Vendors:
Safe Storage for Combustible or Flammable Materials
The NFPA Report brings up a number of points about the actual dangers inherent during a home renovation or construction. The sources of combustion on an average construction job are many and may include materials which may spontaneously combust due to heat or become toxic due to proximity to heat or other elements.
To prevent these types of situations, contractors should provide a portable chemical storage building to your location, if needed, for the safe storage of flammable and combustible materials. These storage facilities must have a continuous ventilation system which exhausts to the outdoors and at least a four-hour fire rating. All storage facilities should be compliant with the local or state municipalities building codes. Safety cans are especially valuable for placing oily rags used in finishing woodworking projects. These cans should always be emptied on a daily basis, however.
Making sure your renovation runs as effortlessly as possible with minimal disruptions to your life is our goal at Purgula. Implementing preventative measures before the project starts goes a long way toward insuring a safe and hazard free home remodeling project. Plan ahead and be safe!
Protection & Safety for Your Home Renovation Project
How to Choose a Qualified & Trustworthy Contractor
Essential Elements of a Home Renovation Contract
Homeowner Liability With Diy Projects
Cautionary Tales from the Non-Permitted
Planning for Post-Demolition Surprises