Preparing a safe home for visiting trick-or-treaters

Halloween is one of my favourite holidays. One of my favourite things about being a grandfather is that I get to experience Halloween again through the eyes of my young grandkids. They love dressing up and have been everything from animals, to superheroes, to Lego men — not to mention the free candy. They even let me sample some of their treats before I send them back home to their mother full of sugar.

Expecting a lot of trick-or-treaters this year? Getting your house ready means more than putting out a jack-o’-lantern. Here’s how I get my house ready for Halloween.

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Check my walkways

If your walkways or stairs have some missing pieces, or wobbly steps, you’re probably used to it, and know where and, more importantly, where not to step when navigating your home. That’s not the case for the potentially dozens of trick-or-treaters coming your way on Halloween night. Your walkways need to be clear and safe before the big day.

Cracked paving stones that shift, as well as loose stairs and railings, can be a big tripping hazard, especially when caped crusaders come calling after dark. If you’re finding anything that’s starting to crumble, NOW’s the time to get it repaired.

Make sure to give your walkway a good sweep to clear away any fallen leaves or debris. Pathways should be clear and easy to navigate. A lot of homeowners like to decorate their yards for autumn with cornstalks and bales of straw. They look great, but keep them off the main pathways. They can be a tripping hazard, especially after dark.

And I hate to say it, but you never know in Canada: have some de-icing agent and a shovel ready in case we get snow before the big night.

Inspect the lighting

A spooky ambience is one thing, but a dark home might provide more tricks than treats. Properly lighting your home not only signals to trick-or-treaters that you’re open for business, it can help little feet safely find their way to your door to collect their goodies.

Where do you need lighting? Outside any entrances (including garages) for sure, as well as along steps and pathways. If you have a long driveway, or live in a rural neighbourhood without many street lights, lining your driveway makes sense as well.

I’ve got solar lights installed around my walkways, which I really love. They’re a strong LED light that recharges, which means no wires snaking around creating a potential tripping hazard. And when I say strong, I mean it — they light up my entire driveway at night!

If you’re really looking to create a well-lit Halloween feel for your yard, replacing regular bulbs with orange ones around the yard can provide the mood you want, while still being safe to navigate. I taught my kids to only go to doors with lights on — if your home is too dark, you may have a lot of extra candy left at the end of the night.

Making Halloween fire-safe

To me, nothing represents Halloween better than the traditional jack-o’-lantern, but lighting it with a flame candle is a fire hazard, plain and simple. There are so many options to light up your lanterns that don’t involve an open flame — just pick one. You can even get creative, and choose different coloured lights to get some cool effects. Picture a zombie carved into a pumpkin, backlit by pale green. Sounds pretty scary to me.

If you insist on using a candle to light your lantern, keep it well out of the path of the kids going door to door. It should be kept far from any decor that can easily burn, too. Dry straw, corn stalks, and gardens can light up quickly if you’re not careful. A large percentage of all residential holiday fires come from candles — don’t be a statistic.

Pet peeve

And finally, while your pet may be friendly, not every trick-or-treater who comes to the door is going to want to meet Fido. A rambunctious pet that gets out during the excitement could accidentally knock down a small child, or spook someone who’s uncomfortable with animals. Do your best to keep them contained during trick-or-treat time.
Halloween is supposed to be a fun holiday that brings people out across the community. I love it, but let’s make it right by making it a safe one this year. And if you or the kids need ideas for costumes that pull double duty and include safety gear? Well, construction workers wear reflective vests. Just saying …

Mike Holmes and his son, Mike Jr. are back! Watch Holmes And Holmes on HGTV Canada. For more information, visit


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