Snow Shoveling Safety Tips

Snow Shoveling Safety Tips

By: The Travelers Indemnity Company

When the driveway and walkways are coated in a thick blanket of snow, it is time to get a shovel out for what some consider to be a dreaded chore. But before you tackle the first snowfall of the season, take some time to read these safety snow shoveling tips to help avoid any potential injuries.

Snow shoveling can lead to a number of health risks for many people, from back injuries to heart attacks. The mix of cold temperatures and physical exertion increases the workload on the heart,¹ which may increase the risk of a heart attack for some. According to the American Heart Association, even walking through heavy, wet snow can place strain on your heart.

The following tips can help keep you safer when you set out to shovel:

  • Warm up. Warm your muscles before heading out to shovel by doing some light movements, such as bending side to side or walking in place.
  • Push rather than lift. Pushing the snow with the shovel instead of lifting can help reduce the strain on your body. When lifting snow, bend your knees and use your legs when possible.
  • Choose your shovel wisely. Ergonomically-designed shovels can help reduce the amount of bending you have to do.
  • Lighten your load. Consider using a lighter-weight plastic shovel instead of a metal one to help decrease the weight being lifted.
  • Hit the pause button. Pace yourself and be sure to take frequent breaks. Consider taking a break after 20 to 30 minutes of shoveling, especially when the snow is wet.
  • Consider multiple trips. Consider shoveling periodically throughout the storm to avoid having to move large amounts of snow at once.
  • Keep up with snowfall. Try to shovel snow shortly after it falls, when it is lighter and fluffier. The longer snow stays on the ground, the wetter it can become. Wet snow is heavier and harder to move.
  • Wear layers. Dress in layers and remove them as you get warm to help maintain a comfortable body temperature.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated while shoveling.

A national study² found that the most common shoveling-related injuries were to the lower back. Cardiac-related injuries account for only 7% of all injuries, but they were the most serious in nature. If you do not exercise on a regular basis, are middle-aged or older, or have any health conditions, such as heart disease or high blood pressure, you should check with your doctor before doing any strenuous shoveling. Consider using a snow blower or snow removal service as an alternative means of snow removal.

Snow and Ice Removal Requirements

Snow and ice not only pose a potential risk to you but also to others. As a property owner, you are responsible for making a reasonable effort to keep public walking areas around your property clear of snow and ice. Pre-treating your walkways and other paved surfaces with an anti-icing product can help make snow and ice removal easier. (Some Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. clients have opted to have radiant heat installed under their walks and driveways.)  

Consider stocking up on ice melt in advance, as it sometimes sells out during long winters. You can store unused ice melt in an airtight container, out of reach from children and pets. Be aware that rock salt can damage brick, stone, asphalt and concrete walkways.

Be sure to check your local codes and ordinances regarding snow and ice removal requirements.

¹ American Heart Association,
² Nationwide Children’s,


Outdoor shower at home built by Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc.

It’s time to disconnect garden hoses!

Most outside faucets are freeze-proof, but in order for this feature to be effective, you must remove hoses during cold weather, even if the faucet is located in the garage. If a hose is left attached, the water that remains in the hose can freeze and expand back into the pipe, causing a break in the line. Repair of a broken line that feeds an exterior faucet can be very costly. Martin Brothers Contracting does not warrant a hose bib against freezing, so please take a few minutes to remove garden hoses, close the shut-off valve for the faucet and drain any remaining water from the lines before winter.

We suggest that you drain any hoses and bring them into a heated garage or basement for the winter, rather than leaving them outside where water can freeze and damage them. If you are going to leave them outside in a shed, we suggest that you completely drain the hose by using compressed air to blow the hose completely dry.

If you have any outdoor water features, baths or kitchens, we suggest contacting a plumber to make sure the water lines are winterized properly for the season.

Finally, be aware that sometimes pipes and fixtures that have frozen and thawed don’t start to leak until full water pressure is re-applied. In the spring, check your outdoor fixtures for leaks, even if you have taken steps to protect them from winter ice damage.

It’s Time to Service the Generator

We would like to take this time to remind our clients that, if you have not already done so, please schedule your stand-by generator service. Those with service contracts should simply confirm their service time. It is very important that the stand-by generator is serviced twice a year, spring and fall.

If you do not have a stand-by generator, Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. recommends that you have one installed. Power loss can happen at any time. Typically associated with severe weather, power loss can happen for a myriad of reasons.

Generators can power the air conditioning system, heat, pumps, refrigeration, hot water, security, home automation and other vital components of your home. Call us today at 574-862-2142 to find out about installing a stand-by generator in your home.

Blue slate floor installed by Halsey Tile Co. in lake home built by Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc.

Caring for Natural Stone Floors & Showers

by: Halsey Tile Co.

Natural stones, especially calcite based stones such as marble, travertine, limestone, and many slates, have a delicate chemical composition that may interact in negative ways with cleaning solutions that were not specifically formulated for the task. Once you know WHAT to use, all you have to do is follow some basic guidelines and your natural stone installation will give you years and years of beautiful service.

Routine Preventive Measures

  • DO Use coaster under drinking glasses, particularly those containing alcohol or citrus juices to avoid etching.
  • DO Dry marble surfaces completely. Marble is very prone to water spots, so it is a good idea to never let it air dry.
  • DON’T place hot objects directly on the stone surface. Use trivets or mats under hot items.
  • DON’T use cleaning products, unless the label specifies it is for natural stone. This includes glass cleaner to clean mirrors over a marble vanity top or a liquid toilet bowl cleaner when the toilet sits on a marble floor.

Treating Spills

8907Some spills will turn out to be detrimental to stone if unattended: orange juice, lemonade, wine, vinegar, liquors, tomato sauce, yogurt, salad dressing, perfume, aftershave, the wrong cleaning products and so on. Though a long list, most likely won’t damage “granite” and “green marble” surfaces (at least in the short run), but will ETCH polished marble, travertine, limestone, onyx, alabaster and many slates.


  • DO pick up/clean any spill as quickly as possible.
  • DON’T rub the spill, only blot.
  • DON’T use cleaning products on or near your natural stone unless the label specifies that it is safe for natural marble (cultured marble is man-made and is basically a plastic material). This includes glass cleaners to clean mirrors over a marble vanity top or a liquid toilet bowl cleaner when the toilet sets on a marble floor.


Blue slate floor by Halsey Tile Co. in lake home built by Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc.Invest in quality cleaning tools.

A cleaning chore – any cleaning chore is never a matter of a cleaning product only. The implements – cleaning rag, paper towel, scrubbing pad, squeegee, etc. are important considerations as well. A good quality mop and the proper mop bucket are critical to obtaining the best results when mopping your highly polished stone or porcelain floor.

Choosing the right cleaner is critical to maintaining the beauty of your natural stone flooring. Always use a pH neutral floor cleaner like Hillyard’s Super Shine-All, or other labeled pH neutral safe cleaners, for natural stone cleaning. Using soap or vinegar WILL damage your floor. Soap builds up over time and needs to be stripped properly, so it is best to just stay away from it. Vinegar is highly acidic and will ETCH your floor most times beyond repair.

We found that sponge mops are not the best choice for highly polished stone floors. A better choice is a good-sized, closed loop cotton string mop. However, the very best choice is a microfiber mop. It is a good idea to have at least a couple of mop-heads, so that when one is dirty, all you have to do is trow it in the wash and use another in the meantime.

To seal or not to seal.

Granite top by Halsey Tile Co., in lake home built by Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc.For porous stones like hone-finished limestone or certain mercantile granites, the application of a good quality impregnating sealer is recommended if the floor is installed in a room that has the possibility for accidental spills of staining agents (example: cooking oil, coffee, juice, makeup, lotion etc.).

The application of an impregnating seal to a highly polished marble and travertine, or polished high-density granite is not recommended.

    • DON’T damp mop your floor with commercial cleaner unless they specify pH neutral. Never mop with a vinegar solution.
    • DON’T use any cleanser in powdery or creamy form.
    • DON’T use any soap film remover such as TILEX SOAP SCUM or X14 SOAP SCUM on your polished stone shower or floors.
    • DON’T use any toilet bowl cleaners or vinegar to clean your toilets. Possible spills will eat holes in marble. Clean your bowl with a powder cleanser and spray disinfectant designed safe for natural stone. (MB does not recommend using a powder cleanser in a any toilet as it will scratch the surface. Please follow the toilet manufacturer’s recommendations when cleaning your toilet; only use cleaners that are marked safe on natural stone.)
    • DO clean showers daily with diluted solution of spray cleaner and squeegee.
    • DO use proper floor mats. The leather or rubber of shoes will not damage stone floors, but the dirt on them will. It is important to have good, not just “pretty” mats. Clean floor mats often.

0251Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. provides the above care instructions for our client’s that have had stone products installed by Halsey Tile Co. We recommend that all of our client’s follow care instructions provided by the installer (see your warranty binder). Thank you for using Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. to build your new custom home.

Custom Home

Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

The dark days of winter are over and the bright sunny days of spring shine down on home maintenance projects waiting to be done. We have compiled a list of important home maintenance items that, if completed, will help maintain your home’s value.

Second Floor AdditionInspect & Clean Gutters & Downspouts:

  • Examine any gutters and downspouts. Make sure the sections are tight and the assembly is in good repair.
  • Clean leaves and other debris from inside gutters and ensure that water flows away from your home properly.
  • Low areas in the yard or next to the foundation should be filled with compacted soil. Spring rains can cause yard flooding, which can lead to foundation flooding and damage. Also, when water pools in these low areas in summer, it creates a breeding ground for insects.

Service & Start Irrigation:

  • Make sure in-ground sprinkler systems—are in working order.
  • Once the ground thaws completely, start preparing new garden beds for summer plants. And take stock of your garden tools and lawn-maintenance equipment, including lawn mowers, trimmers and hoses.

Inspect & Repair Chimney:

  • Examine the exterior of the chimney for signs of damage. Have the flue cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep.
  • If you have a masonry chimney, check the joints between bricks or stones. Have any fallen out? Is there vegetation growing out of them? Each signals water infiltration.
  • Look for efflorescence—a white calcium-like deposit that indicates your masonry joints are no longer repelling water but absorbing it, re-seal masonry with a clear, impermeable or water-resistant barrier material. Brush it on, small areas at a time; let it absorb for 15 minutes, then reapply—it may need a couple of applications.

Inspect & Repair Roof:

  • From the ground, examine roof shingles to see if any were lost or damaged during winter. You don’t need to climb up there yourself; with binoculars and a keen eye, you can probably spot trouble. Do you see any shingle-shift, suggesting that some fasteners may have failed and need replacing? Any cracked or missing shingles? What about nail-pops? All will need to be addressed to keep your roof at peak performance.
  • Have a professional contractor check flashing around plumbing vents, skylights and chimneys.
  • Flashing around plumbing vents, skylights and chimneys need to be checked and repaired by a qualified contractor.

Stamped ConcreteInspect & Repair Concrete: 

  • Inspect concrete slabs for signs of cracks or movement. All exterior slabs except pool decks should drain away from the home’s foundation.
  • Fill cracks with a concrete crack filler or silicone caulk. When weather permits, power-wash and then seal the concrete.
  • Check the condition of your sidewalks, driveway and other formal paths and walkways such as wheelchair ramps. Seal concrete or blacktop as necessary to prevent cracking, buckling and other deterioration.
  • Stairs and walkways are some of the most dangerous areas in and around your house. Ensure they are in good repair – without uneven surfaces, moss patches or holes.

 Inspect Home’s Foundation: 

  • Examine your home’s foundation from top to bottom for masonry cracks.
  • Look for cracks and discolorations that point to a water leak or moisture source. Seal and treat as necessary. Small fissures are generally normal, but large or gaping cracks signal potential foundation failure. Consult a professional if you notice any signs of structural damage to your home’s foundation.

Ipe DeckInspect Decks/Patios:

  • Inspect your home’s deck for warped, loose or splintered boards.
  • Is your deck or balcony in good condition? Perform a thorough examination. Push on railings to test for stability and bounce on decking boards to determine solidity. Look for popping nails and missing boards.
  • Check where the deck or balcony connects to the house to ensure the flashing is in good repair and you don’t see evidence of rot or damage. Underneath, try digging into the wood with a screwdriver. Soft, spongy, easily gouged wood indicates dry rot.
  • Sweep the deck to remove any leaves and debris accumulated in the space between boards. Whether it’s wood, plastic or composite, a deck should be cleaned every year to extend its life.
  • If the finish on your wood deck is faded or worn, now is the time to clean, stain, and reseal it. If you have composite decking, follow manufacturers’ recommendations on seasonal care. The same is true for wood and composite fences, pergolas, trellises and other structures.
  • If you have a stone patio, a simple hose down may be all the maintenance required (unless you detect moss or staining, in which case a more serious cleaning may be necessary).

Inspect & Repair Home’s Façade: 

  • Inspect the exterior of your home. Is any paint chipping? Is any siding damaged from winter? Are there any holes in your brick?
  • Whether you have wood siding, stucco or brick, look for trouble spots, especially under eaves and near gutter downspouts. Water stains normally indicate that your gutters are not adequately containing roof runoff.
  • If you have wood siding, check for openings, damaged areas or knots that have popped out, making way for carpenter ants, woodpeckers and other critters that may nest in or burrow through.
  • Replace missing or damaged siding.
  • Brick and masonry surfaces should also be solid, without any whitish powder (efflorescence) appearing on the surface. Freezing temperatures are particularly hard on masonry and mortar as moisture soaks in and expands. Efflorescence is a collection of soluble salts, left behind as the water evaporates. Brush the surface to remove it, and then seal the brick or masonry to prevent further problems.

Service Central Air Conditioning System:

  • Schedule a qualified heating and cooling contractor to clean and service the outside unit of the air conditioning system. Clean coils operate more efficiently, and an annual service call will keep the system working at peak performance levels. Change interior filters on a regular basis.

Service Automatic Home Standby Generator:

  • Schedule a qualified contractor to clean and service the automatic home standby generator unit.

Windows, Doors and ScreensInspect Windows, Doors & Screens:

  • Repair/replace damaged window screens. You don’t want bugs making their way in because you missed a hole in a window screen. And no, duct tape doesn’t count. It can be a quick fix, but don’t leave it for long. It just looks bad.
  • Inspect caulking on windows and weather stripping on doors. Walk around each door and window, looking at caulking, weather stripping, thresholds and other transitions. Fix as appropriate; caulk, expanding foam insulation and weather stripping are simple to apply and save you significant heating and cooling dollars.
  • Clear out your home’s basement window wells of excess material. Excess material encourages animal and insect activity and could be a safety concern as well.

Check Outside Faucets & Turn on Water to Outdoor Kitchens:

  • Before using garden hoses, check outside hose faucets for frost damage. Someone should be inside to watch for leaks, while the outside faucets are turned on.
  • If you own a Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. built home the outside faucets are frost-proof. Damage should not occur, unless a garden hose was left attached during winter months.
  • Have a plumbing professional inspect waterlines to outdoor kitchens and pool houses and have them turn on water for the season.

Clean up Landscaping:

  • Clear dead plants/shrubs from the house.
  • Remove dead plants/shrubs from landscaping beds.
  • This could double as a gardening tip, but if you didn’t trim trees or shrubs in the fall, do so now. Plants can weasel their way into cracks and holes on the exterior of your home, causing damage and shortened longevity. Nip that in the bud before it’s an issue. If you have decorative vines on the exterior, pay close attention.
  • Trim back or remove tree limbs hanging too close to your house. In spring storms, heavy limbs can do significant damage to your home.

Pool House RemodelInspect Pool Houses, Outdoor Kitchens & Outbuildings: 

  • If your gas grill has remained idle over the winter months, check burner jets for clogs and obstructions. Be sure that gas hoses and connections are sound and secure. You’ll also want to check for propane. For charcoal grill owners, make certain your grill is clean of ash and free of grease residue. It’s a good habit to adopt throughout the grilling season, not just in the spring.
  • Clean outdoor appliances and ready for the season.
  • Clean pool house appliances and ready for the season.
  • Clean pool house and ready for the season.
  • Have pool house air conditioning system serviced.
  • Walk around and through outbuildings, checking for structural issues and other damage. Roofing, siding, windows and doors along with water or pest damage are primary issues.
To download the complete Spring Home Maintenance Checklist please visit our website.

30-Day Spring Cleaning Challenge

spring clean challengeSpring is right around the corner and to help dust-out winter’s cob-webs we are bringing you a 30-day spring-cleaning challenge. Each task will take approximately one hour to finish.

We start in the KITCHEN on day #1. Clean the microwave and oven.

Day 01-OvenTip: Ammonia should not be used to clean a Wolf oven cavity, racks, or rack guides. Any suggestions to clean an oven by sitting ammonia in the oven overnight should be avoided with Wolf products. Ammonia is not FDA approved for this use, and Wolf does not recommend it. Refer to the Wolf Cleaning Guide for further information on proper cleaning of a Wolf oven.

On day #2 we are still in the KITCHEN. Clean the dishwasher and small appliances.

FisherPaykel recommends using a cleaner like Lemi shine machine cleaner or Finish dishwasher cleaner-following instructions from the manufacturer. You may also place a bit of vinegar in a cup and place the cup on a basket inside the dishwasher. Run the dishwasher on the heavy cycle if using vinegar.

On day #3, still in the KITCHEN and it’s time to wipe down the pantry.

Ayr Custom Cabinetry recommends cleaning off any heavy or sticky residues with a warm, mild solution of Murphy’s Oil Soap or equivalent. Touch up scratches with Old English Scratch Cover or a paste wax shoe polish. Dry with soft clean cloth immediately.

We are in the KITCHEN on day #4. Scrub down the fridge.

Day 04-FridgeTo clean Sub-Zero refrigerator interior shelves and the light diffuser, follow these steps:

Remove shelves, drawers and light diffuser from unit.
To remove or adjust a glass shelf, tilt up, and then lift up and out.
Allow shelves, drawers and light diffuser to warm to room temperature.
CAUTION: Failing to allow shelves or diffusers to warm to room temperature before submerging in water can cause the shelf or diffuser to shatter, damaging the part and possible injury.
Using mild detergent, a little baking soda and water, wipe with a soft cloth.
Rinse and dry shelving thoroughly before installing.
For stains or debris that are difficult to remove:
Allow the shelf or diffuser to soak in a bath tub filled with warm water and 1/10 bleach mixture over night.

Use a toothbrush or can of compressed air to remove any remaining residue.
Using a handheld steam cleaner with spray nozzle may also reach stubborn spots.

Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. recommends viewing the Sub-Zero Care & Cleaning video prior to cleaning the refrigerator. Also, please refer to their website before removing the light diffuser.

We are still in the KITCHEN on day #5. Organize and toss expired foods.

Empty plastic and glass containers for recycling. To find the nearest recycling center please visit

To download the complete 30-day challenge please visit our website.

Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. ALWAYS recommends referring to the owner’s manual BEFORE performing any task.

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