Doors

Interior Doors:  Monitor the condition of your home’s doors and door frames, including the interior of entrance doors and storm doors. Check their hardware for finish, wear, and proper functioning. Sticking doors or out-of-square frames may indicate house settlement, which is normal.  

Exterior Doors:  Exterior doors should be checked often for their condition, operation, and the functionality of their hardware. Door types include hinged, and single and double doors made of wood, steel, aluminum, and plastic with and without glazing. Monitor wood and plastic doors that are not protected from the weather. These doors should be rated for exterior use. Some homes use glass-framed doors of fixed and operable panels that have wood, vinyl-covered wood, and aluminum frames. Check the tracks of these sliding doors for dents, breaks and straightness. 

Doors should also be monitored for the exterior condition of their frames and sills. Check doors that are not protected from the weather for the presence of essential flashing at the head. Over time, the interior condition and hardware of exterior doors can wear out or fail.  

Garage Doors:  Garage doors should be monitored for operation, weathertightness, overall condition, and fit. Garage doors are typically made of wood, hardboard on a wood frame, steel, fiberglass on a steel frame, and aluminum. Garage doors come with glazed panes in a wide variety of styles. Wood and hardboard can rot, hardboard can crack and split, steel can rust, fiberglass can deteriorate from ultraviolet light, and aluminum can dent. 

Garage doors with motors should be periodically tested using each of the operators on the system, such as key-lock switch or combination lock keypad, where control must be accessible on the exterior remote electrical switch, radio signal switch, or photo-electric control switch. Check the operation for smoothness, quietness, speed of operation, and safety. Check for the presence and proper operation of the door safety-reversing device. Look at the exposed parts of the installation for loose connections, rust, and bent or damaged pieces. 

Evaporative Coolers

What is an evaporative cooler?

An evaporative cooler, also known as a swamp cooler, wet-air cooler, and desert cooler, is a device designed to cool air via the evaporation of water.  This is a natural and energy-efficient way to achieve a comfortable indoor temperature.  An evaporative cooler cools indoor air by drawing outdoor air into the unit and passing it over pads that have been saturated with water from a reservoir in the unit.  The water evaporates into the air as it passes over the pads, and the result is a 15° to 40° drop in temperature.  The cooled air is then directed through interior areas where a lowered temperature is desired, forcing warm air outside through open windows.  Because of this, evaporative coolers steadily circulate fresh air through the interior, unlike air conditioners, which circulate the same air over and over again.  They also cost far less than air conditioners and use around a quarter of the energy, making them a very efficient alternative.  

How does evaporation work to lower air temperature?

This process can be observed naturally near a waterfall, lake, river or ocean. When dry air passes over water, the air absorbs some of the water.   The air temperature drops because the temperature and vapor pressure of the water and air attempt to equalize.  Until the air is saturated and unable to hold any more water, liquid water molecules turn to gas in the air, a process that uses energy to change the physical state of the water.  Heat moves from the higher temperature of the air to the lower temperature of the water, which causes the air to cool.

How an Evaporative Cooler Works

An evaporative cooler is basically a large fan with pads, moistened by water, which are located in front of the fan.  The fan pulls the hot, outside air inside, and the air is cooled after passing over the wet pads.  The pads are usually made from wood, wool or fiber, though some plastics and melamine paper are now also used to make cooler pads.  However, wood absorbs some of the water, which allows it to cool the passing air to a lower temperature than some synthetic materials.  The thickness of the pad also plays a part in the cooling efficiency because a larger pad allows longer air contact, so a 10-inch pad is more efficient than a 4-inch pad.  The pads need to be replaced every season or two, but they are fairly inexpensive.

Small water distribution lines wet the top of the pads, which become soaked.  Once the water trickles through them, collecting at the bottom in a sump, a small re-circulating pump sends the water back to the top of the pads to soak them again.  When enough water is lost through the evaporation process, a float valve adds water to the sump so that the pads can continue to be soaked.  Under normal conditions, a cooler may use between 3 and 15 gallons of water per day. 

Because evaporative cooling takes air from the outdoors, cools it, and circulates it indoors, there must be a way for the warm air inside to escape when it is displaced by the incoming cool air.  By leaving doors and windows open strategically, it is possible to direct the path of incoming cool air to areas where it is needed most.  Even smaller units can be effective for larger areas when used in this way.  Many types of cooling units are currently manufactured, including small units for installation in windows, as well as large units meant to be installed centrally to blow air through ductwork and into individual rooms.  

Evaporative Cooling vs. Air Conditioners

The most important factor to keep in mind when determining whether an evaporative cooler can be utilized effectively in a particular situation is the moisture content of the outside air.  Since the air will not hold additional moisture once it reaches its saturation point, no drop in temperature will occur through evaporation if the air is already saturated.  Because of this, evaporative cooling cannot be used effectively in wet or humid climates.  Meanwhile, in areas where the air is hot but humidity is low, the coolers can be used as a cost-effective and energy-efficient alternative to air conditioners.  Such areas in the U.S. include Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, northern Texas, and some parts of California.  

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of using evaporative cooling vs. traditional, phase-change air conditioners.

Advantages of Evaporative Coolers:

  • Evaporative coolers are less expensive to install, estimated at about half the cost of refrigerated air conditioning. 
  • Operating costs are lower, as well.  Power consumption, limited only to the fan and water pump, is estimated at one-fourth of that used for air conditioning. 
  • Low maintenance is also an advantage of evaporative coolers because the only mechanical parts in most units are the fan motor and water pump, which can be easily replaced or repaired at low cost. 
  • Ventilation is increased due to the air being constantly cycled through the cooler to the interior and back outside through open windows and doors. 
  • The increased humidity content in the interior air that results from evaporative cooling can be desirable in dry climates. 
  • The cooling pads, when properly maintained, act to filter air, removing contaminants as the cooled air enters the interior.

Disadvantages of Evaporative Coolers:

  • High-humidity conditions will not allow the cooler to function effectively. 
  • Supplied air from the evaporative cooler is typically 80% to 90% relative humidity, which is sometimes not desirable for indoors, as it can accelerate corrosion, shortening the life of electronic and other equipment, and/or simple be uncomfortable. 
  • High humidity also causes condensation, which can become a problem with electrical equipment, old wood, paper and books, and develop into potential mold and mildew problems. 
  • Water must be constantly supplied to the pads.  Water that has a high mineral content will eventually leave deposits on the pads and the interior of the cooler.  The water supply line may also need to be protected from freezing and potentially bursting during the cold season. 
  • Odors and outdoor contaminants can be blown into the interior if sufficient filtering isn’t in place.  Asthma sufferers may need to avoid environments whose evaporative coolers are poorly maintained.

Evaporative coolers can be less expensive and environmentally friendlier alternatives to traditional air conditioners, depending on the climate and other factors.  Like any home system, homeowners should plan on becoming familiar with their evaporative cooler in order to maintain it seasonally.

Air-Conditioning Systems

A building’s central air-conditioning system must be periodically inspected and maintained in order to function properly. While an annual inspection performed by a trained professional is recommended, homeowners can do a lot of the work themselves by following the tips offered here.

Clean the Exterior Condenser Unit and Components

The exterior condenser unit is the large box located on the side of the house that’s designed to push heat from the indoors to the outdoors. Inside of the box are coils of pipe that are surrounded by thousands of thin metal “fins” that allow the coils more surface area to exchange heat. 

Follow these tips when cleaning the exterior condenser unit and its inner components — after turning off power to the unit, of course.

  • Remove any leaves, spider webs and other debris from the unit’s exterior. Trim foliage back several feet from the unit to ensure proper air flow.
  • Remove the cover grille to clean any debris from the unit’s interior. A garden hose can be helpful for this task.
  • Straighten any bent fins with a tool called a fin comb.
  • Add lubricating oil to the motor. Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.
  • Clean the evaporator coil and condenser coil at least once a year.  When they collect dirt, they may not function properly.

Inspect the Condensate Drain Line

Condensate drain lines collect condensed water and drain it away from the unit.  They’re located on the side of the inside fan unit. Sometimes there are two drain lines—a primary drain line that’s built into the unit, and a secondary drain line that can drain if the first line becomes blocked. 

Homeowners can inspect the drain line by using the following tips, which take very little time and require no specialized tools:

  • Inspect the drain line for obstructions, such as algae and debris. If the line becomes blocked, water will back up into the drain pan and overflow, potentially causing a safety hazard or water damage to your home.
  • Make sure the hoses are secured and fit properly.

Clean the Air Filter

Air filters remove pollen, dust and other particles that would otherwise circulate indoors. Most filters are typically rectangular in shape and about 20 x 16 inches, and about 1 inch thick. They slide into the main ductwork near the inside fan unit. The filter should be periodically washed or replaced, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. A dirty air filter will not only degrade the quality of the home’s indoor, but it will also strain the motor to work harder to move air through it, increasing energy costs and reducing energy efficiency. The filter should be replaced monthly during heavy use during the cooling seasons. You may need to change the filter more often if the air conditioner is in constant use, if any family members have respiratory problems, if you have pets with fur, and/or if it’s particularly dusty indoors.  

Cover the Exterior Unit

When the cooling season is over, you should cover the exterior condenser unit in preparation for winter. If it isn’t being used, why expose it to the elements? This measure will prevent ice, leaves and dirt from entering the unit, which can harm components and require additional maintenance in the spring. A cover can be purchased, or you can make one yourself by taping together plastic trash bags. Be sure to turn the unit off before covering it. 

Close the Air-Distribution Registers

Air-distribution registers are duct openings in ceilings, walls and floors where cold air enters the room. They should be closed after the cooling season ends in order to keep warm air from back-flowing out of the room during the warming season. Pests and dust will also be unable to enter the ducts during the winter if the registers are closed. These vents can typically be opened or closed with an adjacent lever or wheel.  Remember to open the registers in the spring before the cooling season starts.  Also, make sure they’re not blocked by drapes, carpeting or furniture.

In addition, homeowners should practice the following strategies in order to keep their central air-conditioning systems running properly:

  • Have the air-conditioning system inspected by a professional each year before the start of the cooling season.
  • Reduce stress on the air-conditioning system by enhancing your home’s energy efficiency. Switch from incandescent lights to compact fluorescents, for instance, which produce less heat.

Landscaping

Well-maintained landscaping and other improvements are important for the enjoyment of a healthy and durable property.

Plants, Trees & Shrubs:  Check the location and condition of all trees and shrubbery. Those that are overgrown should be pruned or trimmed. Where trees or bushes have overgrown, complete removal may be necessary. Trees need to be trimmed.  Overhanging branches should not interfere with a chimney’s draft, be too close to utility wires, or deposit leaves and twigs on the roof or inside gutters and drains. Trees and shrubbery that are very close to exterior walls or roofs can cause damage. They can make it difficult to perform homeowner maintenance, inspections and repairs. Branches around the perimeter of the house should be pruned back. Tree roots under concrete walks can cause damage. Roots are usually exposed near the surface and can be cut back. Tree roots can cause a home’s foundation to crack by pushing against it from the outside. If you have any of these issues, consider hiring an arborist. An arborist is a specialist in the cultivation and care of trees and shrubs, including tree surgery, the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of tree diseases, and the control of pests. Find a certified arborist in the U.S. at www.nachi.org/go/arborists.

Property Drainage

Making sure that your property is sloped to allow proper drainage can mean the difference between a trouble-free rainy season and a flooded basement a few times a year.  Unwanted moisture intrusion—even at a level not serious enough to cause interior flooding—can create insidious problems that will be difficult to completely eliminate, such as weakened structural elements, mold growth, and other damage and health hazards.

Most problems with moisture in basements and crawlspaces are caused by poor site drainage. The ground should slope away from window wells, exterior basement stairs, and other means of egress. The bottom of each of these areas should be sloped to a drain. Each drain should have piping that connects it to a storm water drainage system (if there is one) or that drains to either a discharge at a lower grade or into a sump pit that collects and discharges the water away from the building. 

Rain:  During the next heavy rainstorm without lightning, grab an umbrella and go outside. Walk around your house and look around at the roof and property. A rainstorm is the perfect time to see how the roof, downspouts and grading are performing. Observe the drainage patterns of your entire property, as well as the property of your neighbor. The ground around your house should slope away from all sides. Downspouts, surface gutters and drains should be directing water away from the foundation.

One important maintenance task is to monitor and maintain the drains and piping. Drains and piping should be open and clear of leaves, earth and debris. A garden hose can be used to check water flow, although its discharge cannot approximate storm conditions. 

House on a Hillside:  Where a building is situated on a hillside, it is more difficult to slope the ground away from the building on all sides. On the high-ground side of the building, the slope of the ground toward the building could be interrupted by a surface drainage system that collects and disposes of rainwater runoff. Swales can be used to direct surface water away from the foundation. There are two general types of surface drainage systems: an open system, consisting of a swale (often referred to as a ditch), sometimes with a culvert at its end to collect and channel water away; and a closed system, consisting of gutters with catch basins.

Carbon-Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.

Facts and Figures

  • Each year in the U.S., approximately 500 deaths are caused by non-fire-related carbon-monoxide poisoning.
  • Most CO exposures occur during the winter months, especially in December and in January. The peak time of day for CO exposure is between 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Many experts believe that CO poisoning statistics understate the problem. Because the symptoms of CO poisoning mimic a range of common health ailments, it is likely that a large number of mild to mid-level exposure is never identified, diagnosed, or accounted for in any way in carbon monoxide statistics.
  • Out of all reported non-fire carbon-monoxide incidents, 89% or almost nine out of 10 of them take place in a home.

Physiology of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

When CO is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen that would ordinarily bind with hemoglobin, a process the effectively suffocates the body. CO can poison slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer the most from a lack of oxygen.

High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health affects. The limit of CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), is 50 ppm.

Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Any fuel-burning appliances that are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO, such as the:

  • furnace;
  • stove and oven;
  • water heater;
  • clothes dryer;
  • room/space heater;
  • fireplace and wood stove;
  • gas and charcoal grill;
  • auto and boat engines;
  • clogged chimney or flue;
  • power tools that run on fuel, such as a gasoline-powered lawnmower; and
  • certain types of swimming pool heaters.

CO Detector Placement

CO detectors can monitor exposure levels, but do not place them:

  • directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances, as appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up;
  • within 15 feet of heating and cooking appliances, or in or near very humid areas, such as bathrooms;
  • within 5 feet of kitchen stoves and ovens, or near areas locations where household chemicals and bleach are stored (store such chemicals away from bathrooms and kitchens, whenever possible);
  • in the garage, kitchen, furnace room, or in any extremely dusty, dirty, humid, or greasy areas;
  • in direct sunlight, or in areas subjected to temperature extremes. These include an unconditioned crawlspace, unfinished attic, un-insulated or poorly insulated ceilings, and porches;
  • in turbulent air near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh-air returns, or open windows. Blowing air may prevent carbon monoxide from reaching the CO sensors.

Do place CO detectors:

  • within 10 feet of each bedroom door and near all sleeping areas, where it can wake sleepers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recommend that every home have at least one carbon-monoxide detector for each floor of the home, and within hearing range of each sleeping area;
  • on every floor of the home, including the basement;
  • near, but not directly above, combustion appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces, and in the garage; and
  • on the ceiling in the same room as permanently installed fuel-burning appliances, and centrally located on every habitable level, and in every HVAC zone of the building. This rule applies to commercial buildings.

In North America, some national, state and local municipalities require installation of CO detectors in new and existing homes, as well as commercial businesses, among them: Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New York City, and the Canadian province of Ontario. Installers are encouraged to check with their local municipality to determine what specific requirements have been enacted in their jurisdiction.

How can I prevent CO poisoning?

  • Purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors with labels showing that they meet the requirements of the new UL standard 2034 or Comprehensive Safety Analysis 6.19 safety standards.
  • Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Have the heating system professionally inspected by your InterNACHI inspector and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without the proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owner’s manual when performing minor adjustments and when servicing fuel-burning equipment.
  • Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space, such as a garage, house or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never use gas appliances, such as a range, oven or clothes dryer to heat your home.
  • Never operate un-vented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
  • During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are completed.
  • Do not place generators in the garage or close to the home. People lose power in their homes and get so excited about using their gas-powered generator that they don’t pay attention to where it is placed. The owner’s manual should explain how far the generator should be placed from the home.
  • Clean the chimney. Open the hatch at the bottom of the chimney to remove the ashes. Hire a chimney sweep annually.
  • Check vents. Regularly inspect your home’s external vents to ensure they are not obscured by debris, dirt or snow.

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous poison that can be created by various household appliances. CO detectors must be placed strategically throughout the home or business in order to alert occupants of high levels of the gas.

GFCIs

A ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a device used in electrical wiring to disconnect a circuit when an unbalanced current is detected between an energized conductor and a neutral return conductor. Such an imbalance is sometimes caused by current “leaking” through a person who is simultaneously in contact with a ground and an energized part of the circuit, which could result in a lethal shock. GFCIs are designed to provide protection in such a situation, unlike standard circuit breakers, which guard against overloads, short circuits and ground faults.

It is estimated that about 300 deaths by electrocution occur every year, so the use of GFCIs has been adopted in new construction and recommended as an upgrade in older construction,in order to mitigate the possibility of injury or fatality from electric shock.

Testing Receptacle-Type GFCIs

Receptacle-type GFCIs are designed to allow for safe and easy testing that can be performed without any professional or technical knowledge of electricity. GFCIs should be tested right after installation to make sure they are working properly and protecting the circuit. They should also be tested once a month to make sure they are working properly and are providing protection from fatal shock.

To test the receptacle GFCI, first plug a nightlight or lamp into the outlet. The light should be on. Then press the “TEST” button on the GFCI. The “RESET” button should pop out, and the light should turn off.

If the “RESET” button pops out but the light does not turn off, the GFCI has been improperly wired. Contact an electrician to correct the wiring errors. If the “RESET” button does not pop out, the GFCI is defective and should be replaced.

If the GFCI is functioning properly and the lamp turns off, press the “RESET” button to restore power to the outlet.

Electrical Panel Safety

All homeowners should know where their electrical panel is located.  When you open the door to it, you should find breakers that are labeled which correspond to the different rooms or areas of the home.  Breakers will sometimes trip due to a power surge or outage, and the homeowner can flip the switch to reactivate the current to the particular room or area.  Behind the breakers is the dead front, and it is this electrical component that should be removed only by a qualified electrician or inspector.

Before touching the electrical panel to re-set a breaker, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have an escape path?  Make sure that you know where you can safely turn or step if you must escape a dangerous surprise, such a bee or a spark. An unfortunately placed shovel or extension cord, for instance, can turn a quick jerk into a dangerous fall.
  • Is the floor wet?  Never touch any electrical equipment while standing on a wet surface!
  • Does the panel appear to be wet?  Check overhead for dripping water that may have condensed on a cold water pipe.
  • Is the panel rusty?  Rust is an indication of previous wet conditions that may still exist.
  • Are there scorch marks on the panel door?  This can indicate a past or very recent arc, and further investigation should be deferred to a licensed electrician.

Here is a list of defective conditions that a homeowner may see that may be called out during an electrical inspection:

  • insufficient clearance. According to the 2008 National Electrical Code, most residential electrical panels require at least a 3-foot clearance or working space in front, 30 inches of width, and a minimum headroom clearance of 6 feet, or the height of the equipment, whichever is greater.
  • sharp-tipped panel box screws. Panel box cover screws must have blunt ends so they do not pierce the wires inside the box.
  • circuit breakers that are not properly sized.
  • oxidation or corrosion to any of the parts. Oxidized or corroded wires will increase the resistance of conductors and create the potential for arcing.
  • damage caused by rodents. Rodents have been known to chew through wire insulation in electrical panels (and other areas), creating an unsafe condition. Rodents have been electrocuted this way, leaving an unsightly mess inside the panel.
  • evidence of electrical failures, such as burned or overheated components.
  • evidence of water entry inside the electrical panel. Moisture can corrode circuit breakers so that they won’t trip, make connections less reliable and the equipment unsafe to touch.
  • a panel manufactured by Zinsco or Federal Pacific Electric (FPE). These panels have a reputation for being problematic, and further evaluation by a qualified electrician is recommended.

Garage Door Safety

The garage door is the largest moving object in a house. Its parts are under high tension. All repairs and adjustments should be performed by a trained garage door systems technician. To find a technician, visit the International Door Association website. If the garage door appears inoperable or out of plumb, do not attempt to operate the garage door opener. If the door appears plumb, you can perform some basic testing to ensure that your garage door is operating as it should.

Photo-Electric Eyes

Federal law states that residential garage door openers manufactured after 1992 must be equipped with photo-electric eyes or some other safety-reverse feature. If the garage door has an opener, check to see if photo-electric eyes are installed. They should be near the floor, mounted to the left and right sides of the bottom door panel. The beam of the photo-electric eyes should not be higher than 6 inches above the floor.

Non-Contact Reversal Test

This check applies to door systems that are equipped with photo-electric eyes. Standing inside the garage and safely away from the path of the door, use the remote control or wall button to close the door. As the door is closing, wave an object in the path of the photo-electric eye beam. The door should immediately reverse and return to the fully-open position.

Contact Reversal Test

This check applies to doors with openers when the opener’s force setting has been properly set, and when the opener reinforcement bracket is securely and appropriately attached to the door’s top section. If you’re concerned that a contact reversal test may cause damage to the garage door or its components, don’t do it.

Otherwise, begin this test with the door fully open. Under the center of the door, place a 2×4 piece of wood flat on the floor in the path of the door. Standing inside the garage but safely away from the path of the door, use the wall push button to close the door. When the door contacts the wood, the door should automatically reverse direction and return to the fully-open position.

If your garage door fails or is slow to respond to any of these tests, contact a qualified technician who can check for any necessary repairs or upgrades.

Safe Railings & Stairs at Porches & Decks

Most DIY homeowners (and a surprising number of contractors) aren’t aware that the railings and stairs at decks and porches should follow certain measurements for safety.  This is especially important for households with children and/or visitors with children.
Here are some basic rules for steps:
  • Most deck stairs have open risers (the vertical space between stairs) that are not safe for children, as well as adults who may step too far into the tread or surface of the step.  Risers may be open but should not allow the passage of a sphere 4 inches in diameter.  Another way to make an open-riser stairway safer is to increase the depth of the tread.
  • It’s typical for steps or risers in the same stairway to be of slightly unequal heights, but the difference between the shortest and tallest (including the very bottom step) should not exceed 3/8-inch.  This is to ensure that a person’s natural stride is not interrupted, which can otherwise lead to tripping.
  • A smooth and graspable handrail should be provided on at least one side of a stairway having four or more steps.  A handrail is considered graspable if the average person can hold onto it using a natural grip for balance and support.  It should also be between 34 and 38 inches high.
  • Outdoor lighting at steps is essential for night-time safety.  Solar-powered stake units are a low-cost and energy-efficient option.
Here are some rules for railings:
  • The guardrail surrounding a deck or porch should be supported by posts at least every 6 feet.  This includes most decks that are higher than 12 inches above adjacent areas.
  • The spindles or balusters between the posts should be less than 4 inches apart to prevent children from slipping through or becoming stuck between them.
  • Balusters should be vertical rather than horizontal or ladder-type to prevent anyone from climbing on them and damaging them or hurting themselves.
If you suspect that your deck or porch doesn’t meet these guidelines, a tape measure will help ensure your family’s and guests’ safety.  Check with your local building department for code compliance and other requirements.