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.

Pre-Cast Fireplace Warning

Pre-cast fireplaces were installed on many homes throughout California during the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s.  We come across them frequently while inspecting homes here in San Diego County.  Many of these fireplaces were cracked or damaged before they were even installed.  Most of the cracks discovered are typically at the “insulation plate” which starts at the fireplace opening and extended to the smoke chamber .  A damaged fireplace can allow smoke, fire and carbon monoxide to enter the home which is a serious safety concern and fire hazard.  During a recent home inspection, I came across this pre-cast fireplace that was severely cracked (one of the worst I’ve ever seen) and not safe for use. The only fix for this fireplace would be to tear it down and build a new one.  If you are concerned about the fireplace in the home that  you currently own or one installed at a home you are considering purchasing, be sure you have it thoroughly inspected by a qualified expert before attempting to use it.

severely cracked pre-cast chimney

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

Cracks inside the liner of this pre-cast chimney

Cracks were noted inside the liner of this pre-cast chimney

cracked pre-cast chimney

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

Cracks were noted inside the liner of this pre-cast chimney

Cracks were noted inside the liner of this pre-cast chimney

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 www.home-inspector-San-Diego.com John Robinson's Inspection Group

www.home-inspector-san-diego.com 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.

Safety Hazard Discovered During A Home Inspection In San Diego

A safety hazard was discovered during a recent home inspection here in San Diego by an inspector from John Robinson’s Inspection Group. Upon entering the attic space of this North Park area home, the inspector observed that the gas furnace flue pipe was not properly installed.  A separation was noted about halfway between the top of the furnace and the roof sheathing.  This is a serious health and safety hazard.  Every time this gas furnace is turned on, the byproducts of combustion including Carbon Monoxide are allowed to spill or leak right back into the home.  This condition can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Separated gas furnace flue pipe is a Carbon Monoxide hazard

A separated gas furnace flue pipe found in the attic of this home during a home inspection.  This is a Carbon Monoxide hazard that should be immediately corrected

 

Carbon monoxide is known as the “Silent Killer”.  It can prevent the body from receiving oxygen.  Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can be flu-like: to include nausea, headaches, hard time breathing, weakness, trouble falling asleep, and fatigue.  In large quantities, carbon monoxide can cause fainting, brain damage, or death.

To repair this condition is as simple as hiring  a qualified HVAC contractor to properly reconnect this pipe back together.  This home also lacked carbon monoxide detectors.  The installation of carbon monoxide detectors  in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association installation recommendations will greatly improve the level of safety in this home.  Here’s a link to their website for more information: http://goo.gl/ptA8eP

The inspectors here at John Robinson’s Inspection Group are always looking for health and safety hazards during each and every home inspection we perform.  Our goal is to ensure that the home you are considering buying, selling, or renting is safe for those who are currently or going to live in it.  If you are concerned about safety hazards in your home do not hesitate to contact our office to set up an appointment….Someones life could depend on it.

Anti-Tip Brackets for Freestanding Ranges

We find missing anti-tip brackets during about 90% of the home inspections we perform.  Most homebuyers have no idea what they are or why they are needed.   Follow this link below to our Facebook page to read a short article to gain a better understanding of what anti-tip brackets are and why they are important.  John Robinson’s Inspection Group, always looking out for your safety.  https://www.facebook.com/notes/john-robinson/anti-tip-brackets-for-freestanding-ranges/10202873284577444

Warning Label inside door

Warning Label found inside the door of most freestanding ranges

 

parts needed for anti-tip bracket installation

Typical parts needed for anti-tip bracket installation

Always Hire A Licensed Plumber

During a recent inspection of a San Diego home, I came across a water heater that had been relocated into the garage.  It was quite evident that this modification was performed by non-licensed plumbers.  Several unsafe conditions were visible. Below are a couple of photographs of of safety violations that should be corrected immediately by a licensed plumber.

Child-Proofing Windows and Stairs

The home inspectors here at John Robinson’s Inspection Group consider child safety in and around your home to be a very serious matter that should never be glossed over during a home inspection.  That’s why during our inspection of your prospective home we inspect for items that could prove to be hazards to you and especially your children.  The Number One hazard for children under the age of 19 is falls, which are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in the U.S. for this age group.  About 8,000 youngsters wind up in emergency rooms every day for injuries related to falling, adding up to almost 2.8 million per year.  With those statistics in mind, it is worth looking at what can be done to prevent such injuries in the home.

In trying to fathom how so many children can be injured on a daily basis from something as simple as slipping and falling, we need to consider an important factor, which is height.  Oftentimes, when observing small children at play, we are amazed at their dexterity and ability to take what looks like a fairly serious tumble and hop right back up, unfazed.  Likewise, a slip or fall for most adults, more often than not, leads to little more than a poorly chosen expletive being uttered.  However, imagine a small child falling a distance equivalent to the average height of an adult, and we begin to see where the danger lies.  With this to consider, let’s closer look at two of the most important areas to childproof in a home: windows and staircases.

STAIRCASES

The first thing that probably comes to mind when examining child safety in relation to stairways and staircases is a safety gate, and with good reason: falling down stairs can be a serious hazard for an infant or toddler who is just learning to navigate his or her surroundings. When properly installed, high-quality safety gates can help eliminate this possibility.

Safety Gates  

A safety gate is a gate that is temporarily installed in a door or stairway.  It allows adults to unlock and pass, but small children will be unable to open it.  There are two basic types of gates which differ in the way they are installed.  The first type is a pressure-mounted gate.  These safety gates are fixed in place by pressure against walls or a doorway.  They can be used in doorways between rooms, such as for keeping crawling babies out of a kitchen during cooking, but they are not suitable for keeping kids out of other areas, such as the top of a stairway, where falling could be a risk.

The other type of safety gate, which is recommended specifically for stairways, is hardware-mounted.  These gates will mount solidly in place with screws but are still easily removable for times when they are unnecessary.  A hardware-mounted safety gate will prevent small children from entering stairways where accidents could occur.

When choosing a safety gate, you can refer to established ASTM standards for these products, and some manufacturers also participate in a certification program administered by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.  Any gate you choose should meet the ASTM standards, which will ensure that the gate itself poses no hazard to the child.  Products that comply with these standards will have a sticker on the packaging or on the unit itself.

Railings 

For parents of children who have outgrown the need for safety gates but are still small and curious, especially those prone to climbing on things, baluster spacing on the handrail becomes a concern.  An InterNACHI inspector knows that a stairway with four or more risers should have a continuous handrail not lower than 34 inches or taller than 38 inches on at least one side, with balustrades not more than 4 inches apart from each other.  If you have spaces between vertical rails or risers that will allow an object larger than 4 inches to pass between them, they should be reported during an inspection as in need of repair because they pose a risk to a child who tries to climb on the rail or gets stuck between them.

WINDOWS
If the dangers associated with falling are compounded by the height of the fall, then windows can present an even greater concern than stairways.  It is estimated that more than 4,000 children are treated every year in emergency rooms for injuries sustained by falling from windows.  There have been at least 120 such deaths reported since 1990.  Risk of injury from window-related accidents in the home can be minimized by addressing
several common issues.
The first thing and simplest thing to do is to ensure that there is no furniture situated in areas that would make it easy for a child to reach and open or close a window.  Any furniture a child could potentially climb on should be moved away from windows.
Latches, Stops and Guards
As children begin to grow to heights where they may be able to access windows from a standing position, it is important to install secure, child-proof latches.  There are many types of window latches that, similar to safety gates, will allow an adult to easily open and close windows, but will prevent kids from doing the same.

Also available are window stops, which will not allow the window to be opened wider than a pre-determined width.  The recommended opening, similar to balustrade spacing, should not exceed 4 inches.  This eliminates the possibility of a child or one of his limbs to pass through.  These stops are easily removable by an adult whenever necessary.

An additional option to consider is a window guard.  A window guard can be vertical or horizontal.  It attaches to a frame and can be removed by an adult, but will deter a child.  Guards have some form of bars or beams across them, which should be no more than 4 inches apart.  Window guards maintain the functionality of the window while ensuring a child’s safety while the window is open.  However, even with a guard installed, kids should not be allowed to play around windows, whether they are open or closed.  Try to open windows only from the top, if possible.  And never rely on window screens to keep a child from falling, as that is not the function they are designed for.

With some foresight, a few clever and fairly inexpensive products, and proper adherence to building codes, the risk of injury from falling can be successfully minimized.  Your InterNACHI inspector can assess the safety issues in your home, and advise you on the most effective childproofing measures to keep your family safe.by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward