It’s Home Safety Month

According to the Center for Disease Control. unintentional injuries are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., overtaking  strokes on the list. Most accidental injuries are completely preventable, so paying attention to home safety can save pain, time money or even a life.

Entryways can be made safer with the addition of more lighting and railings. Steps and sidewalks, whether they are made of wood or cement, should not be left to crumble, warp, pull away from the main structure or sag unevenly. Where possible, a no-step entrance is even better.

Adequate lighting can make all the difference when walking from room to room. All areas of a home should have adequate lighting. Lights can be places on timers to illuminate rooms on a specific schedule. Motion-activated or on-all-night-lights can help when walking in a house at night. In particular , hallways and stairs should be properly lit.

Keeping the interior of  home clean, organized and in good repaid can help prevent accidents. Clutter can be not only unsightly, but dangerous. Messy conditions and broken items are trips and falls waiting to happen. Area rugs that slip out of place, stacks of newspapers and magazines and piles of belongings or other possessions can serve as barriers and obstacles, as well as tripping hazards.

Most homes have a mandated smoke alarm, but in safety survey, less than 20 percent of all homeowners reported they ever tested their alarm. The majority of deaths from home fires are from smoke inhalation, so early warning an evacuation are critical. A working smoke detector should be in every bedroom or sleeping area, another in the hallway outside sleeping areas, as well as a smoke detector for every level of the home.

If there are children in a home, accidental ingestion of pills or household chemicals is always a concern. All medications should be out of reach or in a locked cabinet, and all household chemicals and cleaners should be made inaccessible to children. Some cleaners today in the form of brightly-colored and vacuum-sealed powders that are appealing  to children. These and all cleaners should be out of reach and the Poison Control hotline number posted near the phone or in the cabinet.

Even prescribed medicines can be hazardous. The CDC estimates about 128,000 people die each year from drugs prescribed to them. This makes prescription drugs a major health risk. Medicines should always used only by the person whose name is on the bottle and any adverse reactions to a medication should be reported immediately.

As the prevalence of guns continues to rise, so do gun accidents and fatalities. Sadly, American children younger that 15 are nine times more likely to be involved in a gun accident than those is the rest of the developed world. IF there are guns in the home, they must be placed in a locked cabinet with the key hidden. Ammunition should be locked separately.

fire can be a household hazard, but one that in the main can be prevented by having chimneys cleaned and inspected and making sure dryer lint is regularly removed from filters, vent and piping. If a fireplace is sued frequently, screens and other barriers should cover the area of open flame.

In case of fire emergency, fire extinguishers should be installed on every floor of the home;keep on in the garage, and one in the kitchen.

Tips to Maintaining Your Garage

Most homeowners don’t think much about their garage doors; until they don’t open. Fortunately, newer garage doors come self-lubricated or with plastic parts that need no oil. Older doors may need more attention, and in most cases, some extra oil to keep the door rolling up and down smoothly. A leaf blower can be employed to blast grit, grime,dust, and cobwebs from door parts in preparation for oiling.

Another part of the door that may need inspection is the rubber seal at the bottom. Because it is exposed to the elements, the seal can harden or crack over time, sometimes allowing rain into the garage. Replacing it costs under  $100 and may keep out not only weather, but uninvited house-guest(rodents) as well.

Speaking of pests, insects may seek shelter within the garage walls. Where there are cool,dark, and moist areas, there can be carpenter ants or termites.Trails of sawdust or chewed wood are clues that it is time to call an inspector.

Garage door sensors should also be checked periodically to make sure the electric eye or  other system raises the door when people,pets, or equipment get in the way. If the door does not respond properly, the garage door should be disabled until repairs are completed.

The garage’s interior needs maintenance starting with the floor. A concrete floor is prone to deterioration from chemicals and fluid spills.Concrete sealer can be applied to protect the concrete and make the surface easier to sweep and keep clean. Sealers can be applied safely by homeowners when using proper ventilation and equipment. In other cases, professionals can perform the service.

It is important to check not only the floor of the garage, but interior and exterior walls and foundation as well.  Just as moisture can affect the floor, it can affect walls and foundation. Water leaking from a garage roof can lead to mold problems, rotting drywall or even damage the wood frame.

Just as in your home, a garage with one or more windows is susceptible to air leaks. There are several simple methods for checking for these leaks, by either rattling the window ( if a window moves,there may be a leak) or visually inspecting the windows. Simple leaks usually can be sealed though the use of caulking or weather stripping.

If the garage is attached to the house, a properly insulated door leading to the house is vital to fire safety and maintaining energy efficiency. Most building codes require the door between the garage and the home’s interior living space to be fire-rated  and many municipalities also require the door to be self-closing. If the door show signs of damage or the self-closing mechanism has failed; repair or replace it.  It is important to make sure  proper weather stripping is installed on this door as well.

In addition, a slope to the roof can be signal trouble as well, possible in the form of a foundation that has settled. It may take more than eyeballing the roof,such as using a level, to determine if the garage is leaning. If so, it may need to be examined by a construction professional.

New Homes in 2016 Bigger & Better

What a difference a decade makes. In 2005, the average cost of a new home (in the U.S.) was $297,00 and that measured approximately  2400 square feet, according to the U.S Census Bureau.

Figures recently released by the National Association of Home Builders ( NAHB) show that the trend is growing bigger. The average single-family home built in the U.S. in 2016 will be built on about a half-acre lot, totals about 2800 square feet of finished space and will sell for an average cost of $468,318.

What factors have led to this dramatic increase in cost? First, homes are about 400 square feet larger. Also according to a list compiled by International Contractors Inc., during the years 2002 through 2008, home construction costs rose approximately %5 per year. High oil prices during those years influenced manufacturing and transportation costs, leading to higher and higher home construction costs. When the recession and housing bubble hit in earnest, builders were forced to reduce costs, and did so.

As a result, construction costs dropped to $80 per square foot in 2011. But with new home buyers demanding more room, and more amenities, home prices and construction costs are now again creeping higher that they were just a few years ago.

A housing contractor currently in business will incur average construction costs for a single-family home today of around $289,415, which is $103 per square foot to complete, up from around $80 per square foot in 2011. According to the U.S. Census figures, construction costs were at their highest, $95 per square foot in 2013.

The biggest expense for general contractors when constructing a new home are the actual construction costs- including labor and materials at almost 62%. The improved lot size accounts for about 20% pf the cost, with builder profits averaging nine percent. Overhead and miscellaneous expenses round out the total, with addition of about two percent for financing, commission and marketing costs.

Of the total costs, framing and trusses are one of the biggest expenses, at around $17 per square foot today or 18% of the construction budget. Among other major stages of construction, interior finishes account for about 30 percent of a home’s cost, exterior finishes accounting for about 15 percent, major system rough-ins around 13 percent and foundations around 12 percent. Site work, final steps and other costs account for balance. Builders have reported steadily increasing lumber costs for the past four years. They note they are experiencing higher costs for cement, ready-mix concrete, and brick and block as well.

As the unemployment rate does down and wages rise, many builders are reporting that labor costs are increasing around 3 to 4 percent per year. Some builders experiencing difficulty finding carpenters and excavation crews as well.


Fire Protection

When inspecting a home, the inspectors of John Robinson’s Inspection Group are always thinking about the health and safety of the current and future occupants of that property.  When it comes to health and safety, Fire Protection is always at the top of our list.

Did you know that materials like gypsum board provide passive protection against the rapid spread of a fire?

In single family homes, townhouses and condos with attached garages, a minimum of 1/2 in thick gypsum board or equivalent must be installed on the garage side of the walls and ceilings common to the house or shared attic space to maintain proper fire separation.  Also, 5/8 in thick Type X gypsum board must be attached to the ceiling of the garage under habitable rooms.

There should be no direct openings between the garage and sleeping rooms.   The door to the house from the garage is required to be 20 minute rated, 1 and 3/8 inches thick, solid wood or steel.  There should be no duct openings in the garage (i.g. no central air or heat vent openings that terminate in the garage common to the house).   Ducts that penetrate the common/firewall must be 26-gauge steel.

The most common issue we see are voids, holes or separations in the firewall to allow the passing of water lines, gap piping, and electrical wires from the garage to the home.   All voids in the fire separation between the garage and the home should be sealed with approved materials.

Home Inspector San Diego Fire Wall Separation or Void John Robinson's Inspection Group 619-684-1444 Home Inspector San Diego reveals a void or separation in the fire separation between the garage and livable space of this San Diego Home

If you have any questions regarding fire-separations and/or possible voids in the firewall of a home you currently live in or thinking of buying, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 619-684-1444.

Building Permits: Do You Really Need One?

All of the inspectors here at John Robinson’s Inspection Group get asked by our San Diego home buyers from time to time if certain modifications or additions discovered (or disclosed by the sellers) need to be or should have been permitted.   Our answer generally depends on exactly what was modified, changed or added to the home inquestion.  Over the years and after performing thousands of pre-purchase home inspections, we have discovered that most home buyers, home sellers, and home owners have no idea of what needs to be permitted vs what may not need to be permitted.  The following list will serve as a good place to start in determining if your addition or modification needs to be permitted according to the latest International Residential Code (IRC) manual.

According to the IRC, permits are not required for the following:

* Detached one-story accessory structures (tool sheds) less than or equal to 200 sq.ft.
* Fences less than or equal to 6 ft., sidewalks, driveways, swings and playground equipment
* Retaining walls less than or equal to 4 ft. from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall & with no surcharge
* Water tanks on grade less than or equal to 5,00o gallons & height/width ratio less than or equal to 2:1
* Painting, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter & similar finish work
* Awnings projecting less than or equal to 54 inches from exterior wall & supported from wall
* Decks less than or equal to 200 sq. ft. & less than or equal to 30 inches above grade and not attached to dwelling or serving a required exit door

We wanted to provide this list of  what typically can be done to your home without a  permit according to the latest IRC to help clear up some of the confusion for our home buyers, sellers, and owners.   If what you are planning to build falls outside of the list above it is safe to assume that a permit is required.  However, your local city/county building official has the final say regarding what needs to be permitted.  So before you build be sure to contact your local building department to prevent problems and hefty fines down the road.