Stairs

Structural Integrity:  All stairs must be kept structurally sound. Don’t forget to examine the basement stairs.  Check the area where they meet the floor and where they are attached to the floor joists above.  

Stair Width and Clearance:  Stairways should have a minimum headroom of 6 feet and 8 inches, and width of 3 feet.

Treads and Risers:  The riser of a stair is the height of the step.  The tread is the step’s depth. Riser heights and tread depths should be as uniform as possible. All treads should be level and secure.  As a guide, stairs in new homes must have a maximum riser height of 7-3/4 inches and a minimum tread depth of 10 inches.  The maximum difference in height for risers and depth for treads should not exceed 3/8-inch.

Handrails and Guardrails:  You can check a railing’s stability and its fastenings by shaking it vigorously. Handrails are normally required to be 34 to 38 inches above the stair nosing on at least one side of all stairways having three or more risers. Guardrails are required on open sides of stairways and should have intermediate rails that do not allow the passage of a sphere 4 inches in diameter.

Lighting:  All interior and exterior stairways should have a means to illuminate the stairs, including landings and treads. Interior stairways should have a light located at each landing, except where a light is installed directly over each stairway section. Public stair and hallway lights in multi-family buildings should be operable from centralized controls. 

Smoke Detectors:  In addition to having them installed in each bedroom or in hallways adjacent to each bedroom, smoke detectors should be installed above stairways and hallways. They should be located on or near the ceiling, near the heads of stairs, and away from corners. Periodically check the operation of all smoke detectors by pushing their test buttons. 

12 Devices for Child-Proofing Your Home

About 2.5 million children are injured or killed each year by hazards in the home. The good news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by using simple child-safety devices available today. Any safety device you buy should be sturdy enough to prevent injury to your child, yet easy for you to use. It’s important to follow installation instructions carefully. 

In addition, if you have older children in the house, be sure they re-secure safety devices. Remember, too, that no device is completely childproof; determined youngsters have been known to disable them. You can child-proof your home for a fraction of what it would cost to have a professional do it. And safety devices are easy to find. You can buy them at hardware stores, baby equipment shops, supermarkets, drug stores, home and linen stores, and through online and mail-order catalogues. 

Here are some child-safety devices that can help prevent many injuries to young children.   

  1. Use safety latches and locks for cabinets and drawers in the kitchen, bathrooms, and other areas to help prevent poisonings and other injuries. Safety latches and locks on cabinets and drawers can help prevent children from gaining access to medicines and household cleaners, as well as knives and other sharp objects. Look for safety latches and locks that adults can easily install and use, but that are sturdy enough to withstand pulls and tugs from children. Safety latches are not a guarantee of protection, but they can make it more difficult for children to reach dangerous substances. Even products with child-resistant packaging should be locked away out of reach; such packaging is not guaranteed to be childproof. However, according to Colleen Driscoll, executive director of the International Association for Child Safety (IAFCS), “Installing an ineffective latch on a cabinet is not an answer for helping parents with safety.  It is important to understand parental habits and behavior.  While a latch that loops around cabinet knob covers is not expensive and easy to install, most parents do not consistently re-latch it.” Parents should be sure to purchase and install safety products that they will actually adapt to and use.  
  2. Use safety gates to help prevent falls down stairs and to keep children away from dangerous areas. Look for safety gates that children cannot dislodge easily, but that adults can open and close without difficulty. For the top of stairs, use gates that screw into the wall; these are more secure than pressure gates. New safety gates that meet safety standards display a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). If you have an older safety gate, be sure it doesn’t have “V” shapes that are large enough for a child’s head and neck to fit into. 
  3. Use door locks to help prevent children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers, including a swimming pool.  Door knob covers, while inexpensive and recommended by some, are generally not effective for children who are tall enough to reach the doorknob; a child’s ingenuity and persistence can usually trump the cover’s effectiveness. To prevent access to a swimming pool, door locks on safety gates should be placed high and out of reach of young children. Locks should be used in addition to fences and alarms. Sliding glass doors with locks that must be re-secured after each use are often not an effective barrier. 
  4. Use anti-scald devices for faucets and shower heads, and set your water heater temperature to 120° F to help prevent burns. A qualified plumber may need to install these.  
  5. Use smoke detectors on every level of your home and near all bedrooms to alert you to a fire. Smoke detectors are essential home safety devices whether you have children in your home or not. Test your smoke detectors once a month to make sure they’re working properly. If they rely only on batteries, change them at least once a year, or consider using 10-year batteries.
  6. Use window guards and safety netting to help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks and landings. A window screen alone is not effective for preventing a child from falling out of a window.  Check these safety devices frequently to make sure they’re secure and properly installed and maintained. There should be no more than 4 inches between the bars of the window guard.  Be sure at least one window in each room can be easily used for escape by an adult in case of a fire. 
  7. Use corner and edge bumpers to help prevent injuries from falls against sharp edges of furniture and the rough edges of a fireplace. Be sure to look for bumpers that stay on securely. 
  8. Use receptacle/outlet covers and plates to help prevent children from electrical shock and possible electrocution. Be sure the outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children and are large enough so that they cannot choke on them if they manage to dislodge one from the outlet.
  9. Use carbon monoxide (CO) detectors outside all bedrooms to help prevent CO poisoning from dangerous vapors that may enter the living space from combustion appliances and an attached garage.  Similar to smoke alarms and smoke detectors, CO detectors should be installed in all homes, regardless of the presence of children.  
  10. Cut window blind cords to help prevent children from strangling in blind-cord loops. Window blind cord safety tassels on mini-blinds and tension devices on vertical blinds and drapery cords can help prevent deaths and injuries from strangulation. Inner cord stops can also help prevent strangulation. However, the IAFCS’s Ms. Driscoll states, “Cordless is best.  Although not all families are able to replace all products, it is important that parents understand that any corded blind or window treatment can still be a hazard.  Unfortunately, children are still becoming entrapped in dangerous blind cords despite advances in safety in recent years.” For older mini-blinds, cut the cord loop, remove the buckle, and put safety tassels on each cord. Be sure that older vertical blinds and drapery cords have tension or tie-down devices to hold the cords tight. When buying new mini-blinds, vertical blinds and draperies, ask for safety features to prevent child strangulation. 
  11. Use door stops and door holders to help prevent injuries to fingers and hands. These devices installed on doors and door hinges can help prevent small fingers and hands from being pinched or crushed. Be sure that any safety device for doors is easy to use and not likely to break into small parts, which could be a choking hazard for young children. 
  12. Use a cell phone or cordless phone to make it easier to continuously watch young children, especially when they’re in bathtubs, swimming pools, and other potentially dangerous areas.  

There are a number of different safety devices that can be purchased to ensure the safety of children in the home. Homeowners can ask their InterNACHI inspector about these and other safety measures during their Annual Home Maintenance Inspection.  Parents should be sure to do their own consumer research to find the most effective safety devices for their home that are age-appropriate for their children’s protection, as well as affordable and compatible with their household habits and lifestyle.  They can find more information for household safety tips and product recommendations at the IAFCS’s website at www.iafcs.org.

Bed Bugs and Their Prevention

Bed bugs are small, flightless, rust-colored parasites that feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Homeowners should learn the telltale signs of these pests. 

Adult bed bugs are flat and the size of apples, with rust-colored, oval bodies. Newly hatched bed bugs are semi-transparent, light tan in color, and the size of a poppy seed. Yet, due to their elusive nature, their presence is usually discovered through peripheral clues rather than by seeing the bugs themselves. Some of these signs include fecal spots, blood smears, crushed bugs, or the itchy bumps that may result from bites. The bugs may be disturbed while feeding and leave a cluster of bumps, or they may bite in a row, marking the path of a blood vessel. The parasites emit a characteristic musty odor, although the smell is sometimes not present in even severe infestations. The bugs also emit a scent that is picked up by dogs, which has lead to the implementation of dogs for bed bug detection. Properly trained dogs can find bed bugs in wall voids, furniture gaps, and other places that homeowners may overlook.  This helps exterminators to know where they should focus their efforts. 

History and Resurgence

Bed bugs were all but eradicated in the 1950s, but they have re-emerged in a big way. At the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Bed Bug Summit in 2009, researchers decided that the parasite’s revival is more appropriately termed a pandemic rather than an epidemic, noting its rapid spread across large regions and different continents. The United States has seen a 50-fold increase in bed bug infestations over the last five years, according to the National Pest Management Association. The outbreak has affected most parts of North America and Europe, especially in urban areas.  

Researchers believe that bed bugs have roused from a half-century of hibernation for two reasons:  the termination of the use of the pesticide DDT; and a rise in international travel. DDT, a powerful synthetic pesticide, was widely used in agriculture until a public outcry concerning its safety lead to a U.S.-ban of the chemical in 1972, followed by international bans. Unbeknownst to the environmentalists of the time, these laws would permit future outbreaks to grow unchecked, which is precisely what happened when travel increased from countries where bed bugs were never subjugated, such as India. 

Urban hubs of international travel, such as New York City, have been hit hardest by the resurgence. The bugs hitch rides from country to country in suitcases and creep into hotel rooms, where other guests are then exposed and unknowingly spread the parasites to movie theatres, cabs, buses, hospitals, their homes, and everywhere in between. In New York City, bed bug reports increased 800% from 2008 to 2009, a year in which the Department of Housing Preservation and Development received 13,152 complaints of bed bug infestations. 

Treatment and Prevention

Because bed bugs are adept at hiding almost anywhere, an alarming quantity of possessions, from curtains to books and picture frames, must be discarded or quarantined. Some possessions may be salvaged if they are sealed in special casing long enough for the bed bugs to die, which can take many months. During this time, residents may be forced to move out of the home and into temporary housing. 

Fortunately, the health dangers posed by bed bugs appear to be limited to temporary skin irritation and inflammation, akin to mosquito bites. There are no known cases of disease transmission from bed bugs to humans. However, a small percentage of the population may experience anaphylactic shock.  Measures should be taken to prevent bacterial infection of bites from bed bugs by washing the area with soap and water and applying an antiseptic.

It’s best for bed bugs to be treated by pest management professionals (PMPs) and not homeowners, as there is risk that an inexperienced person may make the infestation worse. For instance, bug bombs are ineffective and may actually spread the infestation. Even chemical sprays designed to kill bed bugs can have the opposite effect, if used improperly. PMPs can inspect for bed bugs in their immature stages of development, including their eggs, while homeowners are not trained to do this. In addition, should the homeowner attempt to clean up an infestation before calling in a professional, this may make it difficult for the PMP to assess the true extent of the infestation.

The following tactics may be useful for confirmation of and temporary relief from the presence of bed bugs:

  • Remove bed skirts, as they provide easy access for the bugs to travel from the floor to your bed. If you must have bed skirts, make sure they do not reach the floor.
  • Move your bed away from the wall. Bed bugs cannot fly, but they can climb walls in order to fall onto the bed.
  • Place furniture legs in tin cans coated with talcum powder, petroleum jelly or a non-evaporative liquid to deter the bugs from climbing. 
  • Place a strip of duct tape at the base of furniture with the sticky side out. This tactic can be used to confirm the presence of bed bugs because it will trap them in place.
  • Spray cracks and crevices with an insecticide designed to control bed bugs. Follow the label’s directions carefully. However, do not treat bedding, towels or clothing with insecticide. 

Homeowners can limit their chances of exposure by purchasing only new furniture, as stowaway bed bugs can hide in older or used chairs and mattresses. Hostels, hotels and motels host many travelers and are breeding grounds for bed bugs, and many hostels ban sleeping bags for this reason. Unfortunately, person-to-person contact is difficult to avoid.

Bed bugs are a growing, serious threat.  Homeowners who suspect that they or their home has been exposed to bed bugs may benefit by learning to recognize and become familiar with these pests because of their potential to infest the home and damage property. 

Crawlspace Safety

Crawlspaces are notorious for the nasty discoveries made there by homeowners, inspectors, and home remodelers, and it isn’t hard to figure out why; for one thing, their cool, dark environment attracts undesirable pests and can promote dangerous conditions. And since the crawlspace is mostly unmonitored, hazards can breed there unchecked for a long time.  Never enter a crawlspace without wearing protective clothing and having two flashlights (in case the first one stops working).

The following are some of the more common dangers discovered in crawlspaces:

  • Metal and Wooden Protrusions:  Depending on the age of your home, the crawlspace may house some unwelcoming structural protrusions that you may bump your head on or cut your hand on, so proceed with caution.  Even if your crawlspace is clean and free of pests, it’s no guarantee that it will also be free of a nail head, bent metal attachment, or joist or beam in an unexpected area.  Protect your head by wearing a ball cap or hard hat, and wear gloves to protect your hands.
  • Pests:  Dirt crawlspaces provide the environment that is favored by ants, termites and other insects, and various other pests, including snakes and scorpions, as well as warm-blooded animals looking for a place to nest, such as raccoons, mice and rats.  Some of these pests are poisonous; others may attack when startled.  Always wear protective clothing and use a strong flashlight to illuminate the space before entering it.
  • Mold:  Just like pests, mold and other types of fungus can grow rapidly in crawlspaces. Mold is a health concern, as well as a cause of wood decay, which may require costly repairs. Airborne mold spores can potentially enter the living space from the crawlspace. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions) and irritants.  In some cases, they can produce potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). 
  • Asbestos Insulation: Do not disturb asbestos! The microscopic fibers that cause illness become airborne when the insulation is handled or disturbed.  If it appears to be in good shape, it might not be a problem at all. Prolonged exposure to asbestos insulation can cause mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity, as well as asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue. 
  • Standing Water or Sewage:  Dirt crawlspaces are susceptible to water seepage, which can create a host of problems, such microbial growth, odors, damage to stored belongings, and risk of electrical shock. 
  • Improper Wiring:  Look for loose wiring, open junction boxes, or wiring that has become loose and fallen to the floor.  If you discover any of these issues, contact a licensed electrical contractor for repairs and possible updates to your system.
  • Source of Energy Waste:  Traditionally, crawlspaces have been vented to prevent problems with moisture, and most building codes require vents to aid in removing moisture from the crawlspace. However, many building professionals now recognize that ventilated crawlspaces allow a great deal of heat loss in the winter and moisture intrusion in the summer from damp air.  Have your InterNACHI inspector evaluate your crawlspace and recommend options for preventing energy loss in this area.
  • Structural Collapse:  If you have reason to suspect that the home or foundation is unstable, especially following an earthquake or flood, it might be dangerous to enter its crawlspace. It’s easy to become pinned, trapped or even crushed inside unstable crawlspaces. Make sure someone knows that you’re going into the crawlspace before you enter it. 

Exterior Safety: House Numbers

House numbers should be clear enough so that police, the fire department, paramedics, etc., can quickly locate properties in an emergency. House numbers are often the only way that first-responders can identify their intended destinations. A number of jurisdictions have begun enforcing laws through strict fines for homeowners who do not comply with laws that impose requirements for house numbers.

Common Requirements

Many municipalities and counties have implemented ordinances requiring property owners to standardize the display of their house numbers or face stiff fines. Typical requirements include displaying street numbers in block numbering at least 4 inches tall and ½-thick, with a reflective finish or with a source of night-time illumination.

In order for house numbers to be visible from the street, they should:

  • be large;
  • be of a color that contrasts with their background. Reflective numbers are usually helpful because they are easier to see at night than numbers that are not reflective;
  • not be obscured by any trees, shrubs, or other permanent objects;
  • face the street that is named in the house’s address. It does emergency workers no good if the house number faces a different street than the one the workers are traveling on;
  • be clearly displayed at the driveway entrance if the house is not visible from the road.

Future Adjustments

Even if a house number is currently adequate, it might need adjustment in the future. The following are common reasons for future adjustment:

  • The numbers assigned to houses by the municipality occasionally change, and homeowners must adjust their house numbers accordingly.
  • The trees or shrubs in front of the house have grown so much that the number is no longer visible. House numbers installed in the winter may be visible during that season but become blocked by budding vegetation by spring or summer.
  • House numbers will require maintenance when they get dirty. Numbers may not be reflective or contrasting if they are covered in mud.
  • Snow piles created by snow plows during the winter may be high enough to cover the number. If this happens, the number should be raised so this situation does not repeat.

House numbers serve a critical function for emergency personnel, so homeowners should make sure that they’re clearly displayed.

Pool Safety

Each year, hundreds of young children die and thousands come close to death due to submersion in residential swimming pools. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has estimated that each year, about 300 children under the age of 5 drown in swimming pools. Hospital emergency-room treatment is required for more than 2,000 children under 5 who were submerged in residential pools. The CPSC did an extensive study of swimming pool accidents, both fatal drownings and near-fatal submersions, in California, Arizona and Florida — states in which home swimming pools are very popular and used during much of the year.

  • In California, Arizona and Florida, drowning was the leading cause of accidental death in and around the home for children under the age of 5.
  • Seventy-five percent of the children involved in swimming pool submersion or drowning accidents were between 1 and 3 years old.
  • Most of the victims were in the presence of one or both parents when the swimming pool accident occurred.
  • Nearly half of the child victims were last seen in the house before the pool accident occurred. In addition, 23% of the accident victims were last seen on the porch or patio, or in the yard.
  • This means that 69% of the children who became victims in swimming pool accidents were not expected to be in or at the pool, but were found drowned or submerged in the water.
  • Sixty-five percent of the accidents occurred in a pool owned by the victim’s immediate family, and 33% of the accidents occurred in pools owned by relatives or friends.
  • Seventy-seven percent of the swimming pool accident victims had been missing for five minutes or less when they were found in the pool, drowned or submerged.

Anyone who has cared for a toddler knows how fast young children can move. Toddlers are inquisitive and impulsive, and lack a realistic sense of danger. The best way to reduce child drownings in residential pools is for pool owners to construct and maintain barriers that prevent young children from gaining access to pools. However, there is no substitute for diligent supervision.

Swimming Pool Barriers

A safe pool barrier prevents a child from getting over, under or through, and keeps the child from gaining access to the pool except when supervising adults are present. A young child can get over a pool barrier if the barrier is too low, or if the barrier has handholds or footholds for a child to use for climbing. The top of a pool barrier be at least 48 inches above grade, measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. Eliminating handholds and footholds, and minimizing the size of openings in a barrier’s construction, can prevent inquisitive children from climbing pool barriers.

For a chain-link fence, the mesh size should not exceed 1-1/4 inches square, unless slats fastened at the top or bottom of the fence are used to reduce mesh openings to no more than 1-3/4 inches. For a fence made up of diagonal members (lattice work), the maximum opening in the lattice should not exceed 1-3/4 inches.

Above-ground pools should also have barriers. The pool structure itself can sometimes serves as a barrier, or a barrier can be mounted on top of the pool structure. Then, there are two possible ways to prevent young children from climbing up into an above-ground pool. The steps or ladder can be designed to be secured, locked or removed to prevent access, or the steps or ladder can be surrounded by a barrier, such as those described above. For any pool barrier, the maximum clearance at the bottom of the barrier should not exceed 4 inches above grade, when the measurement is done on the side of the barrier facing away from the pool.

To prevent a young child from getting through a fence or other barrier, all openings should be small enough so that a 4-inch diameter sphere cannot pass through. This size is based on the head- breadth and chest-depth of a young child.

Gates

Preventing a child from getting through a pool barrier can be done by restricting the sizes of openings in a barrier, and by using self-closing and self-latching gates. There are two kinds of gates that might be found on a residential property. Both can play a part in the design of a swimming pool barrier.

Pedestrian gates are the gates people walk through. Swimming pool barriers should be equipped with a gate that restricts access to the pool. A locking device should be included in the gate’s design. Gates should open out from the pool and should be self-closing and self-latching. If a gate is properly designed, even if the gate is not completely latched, a young child pushing on the gate in order to enter the pool area will at least close the gate and may actually engage the latch. When the release mechanism of the self-latching device is less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate, the release mechanism for the gate should be at least 3 inches below the top of the gate on the side facing the pool. Placing the release mechanism at this height prevents a young child from reaching over the top of a gate and releasing the latch. Also, the gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2-inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents a young child from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.

All doors of the home that provide direct access to a swimming pool should be equipped with an audible alarm that sounds when the door and/or screen are opened. The alarm should sound for 30 seconds or more within seven seconds after the door is opened. It should also be loud, at least 85 decibels, when measured 10 feet away from the alarm mechanism. The alarm sound should be distinct from other sounds in the house, such as the telephone, doorbell and smoke alarm. The alarm should have an automatic re-set feature. Because adults will want to pass through house doors in the pool barrier without setting off the alarm, the alarm should have a switch that allows adults to temporarily de-activate the alarm for up to 15 seconds. The de-activation switch could be a touch pad (keypad) or a manual switch, and should be located at least 54 inches above the threshold of the door covered by the alarm. This height was determined based on the reaching ability of young children.

Pool Alarms

A pool alarm is a safety feature designed to alert adults when unsupervised children enter a pool. There are a number of different designs available, but none is foolproof.

Types

  • surface wave sensor: This type of sensor floats on the water and incorporates an electrical circuit that includes two contacts. One of these contacts rests in the water while the other is adjusted to remain above the water’s surface. When a surface wave touches the above-surface contact, the electrical circuit is completed, causing an alarm to sound. Sensitivity can be increased or decreased by moving the above-surface contact closer or further from the water surface.
  • sub-surface disturbance sensor: Mounted to the pool wall below the water surface, this type of sensors is activated by wave-induced pressure changes. One design relies on the movement of a magnetic float below a magnetic sensor, while another design relies on a pressure-sensitive switch. Sub-surface alarms can also be used in conjunction with solar covers, whereas the surface wave-sensor alarms cannot.
  • wristband: This device is worn around the child’s wrist and it cannot be removed without a key. The alarm will activate when the wristband becomes wet, which creates opportunities for false alarms, such as when the child washes his or her hands, or walks in the rain.

Since pool alarms are not foolproof and they rely on someone remembering to activate them, they should not be depended upon as a substitute for supervision, or for a barrier completely surrounding the pool. Pool alarms should also be used in conjunction with other types of alarms, such as gate alarms, perimeter alarms, and window and door alarms. Even some pet doors come equipped with alarms, owing to the recent attention given to the 100 or so documented accidents where a child escaped to a pool through a pet door. Pool alarms are thus one protective layer of many, none of which is sufficient as a sole preventative measure against child drowning.

Hazards of Pool Drains

While drowning is a well-publicized danger associated with swimming pools, comparatively little has been reported about injuries and deaths caused by pool drains. Water rushing out of the drain creates a suction that can ensnare swimmers, usually small children, causing debilitating injuries and deaths. These drains come standard in swimming pools, hot tubs and wading pools, and while they appear harmless, inspectors and parents alike should understand how they could cause harm.

Drain covers can break or be removed by people who are unaware of the possible repercussions. When this happens, a swimmer playing with the drain may become stuck to it in a way similar to how a vacuum will stick to the palm of the hand, but with much more force; 350 pounds of pressure is normal for a pool drain, and public pools are even more powerful. This “suction entrapment” can hold the bather in the drain’s grasp until the person drowns or escapes, often seriously injured.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) distinguishes between five types of drain entrapment:

  • body entrapment, where a section of the torso becomes entrapped. The CPSC is aware of 74 cases of body entrapment, including 13 confirmed deaths, between January 1990 and August 2004. The deaths were the result of drowning after the body was held against the drain by the suction of the circulation pump;
  • limb entrapment, where an arm or leg is pulled into an open drain pipe;
  • hair entrapment or entanglement, where hair is pulled in and wrapped around the grate of the drain cover. The CPSC is aware of 43 incidents of hair entrapment or entanglement in pools, spas and hot tubs between January 1990 and August 2004. Twelve of the incidents resulted in drowning deaths;
  • mechanical entrapment, where jewelry or part of the swimmer’s clothing gets caught in the drain or grate; and
  • evisceration, where the victim’s buttocks come into contact with the pool suction outlet and he or she is disemboweled. While these accidents are rare, they result in lifelong impairment.

Here are some ways that pool drains can be made safer:

  • Make sure the drain cover is present and firmly attached. If the drain cover is missing or damaged, no one should be allowed to enter the pool, and a professional should be contacted immediately. The CPSC requires anti-entrapment drain covers to be installed in all public pools, as of December 2008.
  • Make sure there is a safety snap fitting serving the ground pool cleaner. These devices automatically suck away dirt and leaves, but if they become disconnected from the suction fitting at the pool wall, a hazardous situation can develop. A safety snap fitting is a spring-loaded stopper that will end any suction through the port if any disconnection occurs.
  • Check to see if there is a safety vacuum-release system. This device will cause the drainage to automatically cease if any entrapment occurs.
  • Check for anti-entanglement drain covers. These are a type of fitting that is molded in a particular way so as to prevent hair entanglement.
  • Use no drains at all. Gutters and overflows can be used to provide water to the pump without the need for a drain.
  • Install an additional drain. According to the CPSC, “Providing multiple outlets from the pool to the suction-side of the pump allows flow to continue to the pump, and reduces the likelihood of an entrapping suction being generated when a body blocks one of the outlets.”

Elderly Safety in the Home

“Aging in place” is the phenomenon describing senior citizens’ ability to live independently in their homes for as long as possible. Those who age in place will not have to move from their present residence in order to secure necessary support services in response to their changing needs.

As the baby boomers age, the 60+ population will spike from roughly 45 million in recent years to more than 70 million by 2020. Research shows that baby boomers’ expectations of how they will receive care differ from that of their parents’ generation. Overwhelmingly, they will seek care in their own homes and will be less likely to move into assisted-living settings.

Many corrections and adaptations to the home can improve maneuverability, accessibility, and safety for elderly occupants, as well as those whose mobility is limited for reasons that are not age-related. Some such alterations and recommendations for a home are as follows:

Appliances:

  • microwave oven in wall or on counter;
  • refrigerator and freezer side by side;
  • side-swing or wall oven;
  • controls that are easy to read;
  • raised washing machine and dryer;
  • front-loading washing machines;
  • raised dishwasher with push-button controls;
  • stoves having electric cooktops with level burners for safely transferring between the burners; front controls and downdraft feature to pull heat away from user; light to indicate when surface is hot; and
  • replace old stoves with induction cooktops to help prevent burns.

Countertops:

  • base cabinet with roll-out trays;
  • pull-down shelving;
  • wall support, and provision for adjustable and/or varied-height counters and removable base cabinets;
  • upper wall cabinetry lower than conventional height;
  • accented stripes on edge of countertops to provide visual orientation to the workspace;
  • counter space for dish landing adjacent to or opposite all appliances;
  • glass-front cabinet doors; and
  • open shelving for easy access to frequently used items.

Bathroom:

  • fold-down seat installed in the shower;
  • adjustable showerheads with 6-foot hose;
  • light in shower stall;
  • wall support, and provision for adjustable and/or varied-height counters and removable base cabinets;
  • contrasting color edge border at countertops;
  • at least one wheelchair-maneuverable bath on main level;
  • bracing in walls around tub, shower, shower seat and toilet for installation of grab bars;
  • if stand-up shower is used in main bath, it is curbless and wide;
  • low bathtub;
  • walk-in shower;
  • toilet higher than standard toilet, or height-adjustable;
  • design of the toilet paper holder allows rolls to be changed with one hand;
  • wall-hung sink with knee space and panel to protect user from pipes; and
  • slip-resistant flooring in bathroom and shower.

Exterior:

  • low-maintenance exterior (vinyl, brick, etc); and
  • low-maintenance shrubs and plants.

Entry:

  • sensor light at exterior no-step entry focusing on the front-door lock;
  • non-slip flooring in foyer;
  • accessible path of travel to the home;
  • at least one no-step entry with a cover;
  • entry door sidelight or high/low peep hole viewer; sidelight should provide both privacy and safety;
  • doorbell in accessible location; and
  • a surface on which to place packages while opening door.

Electrical, Lighting, Safety and Security:

  • install new smoke and CO detectors;
  • install automated lighting, an emergency alert system, or a video-monitoring system;
  • easy-to-see and read thermostats;
  • light switches by each entrance to halls and rooms;
  • light receptacles with at least two bulbs in vital places (exits, bathroom);
  • light switches, thermostats and other environmental controls placed in accessible locations no higher than 48 inches from floor;
  • move electrical cords out of the flow of traffic;
  • replace standard light switches with rocker or touch-light switches; and
  • pre-programmed thermostats.

Flooring:

  • if carpeted, use low-density with firm pad;
  • smooth, non-glare, slip-resistant surfaces, interior and exterior; and
  • color and texture contrast to indicate change in surface levels.

Hallways:

  • wide;
  • well-lit; and
  • fasten down rugs and floor runners, and remove any that are not necessary.

Miscellaneous:

  • 30-inch by 48-inch clear space at appliances, or 60-inch diameter clear space for turns;
  • multi-level work areas to accommodate cooks of different heights;
  • loop handles for easy grip and pull;
  • pull-out spray faucet;
  • levered handles;
  • in multi-story homes, laundry chute or laundry facilities in master bedroom;
  • open under-counter seated work areas; and
  • placement of task lighting in appropriate work areas.

Overall Floor Plan:

  • main living on a single story, including full bath;
  • 5-foot by 5-foot clear turn space in living area, kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom; and
  • no steps between rooms on a single level.

Reduced Maintenance and Convenience Features:

  • easy-to-clean surfaces;
  • built-in recycling system;
  • video phones;
  • central vacuum system;
  • built-in pet feeding system; and
  • intercom system.

Stairways, Stair Lifts and Elevators:

  • adequate handrails on both sides of stairway;
  • residential elevator or lift; and
  • increased visibility of stairs using contrast strips on the top and bottom stairs, and color contrast between treads and risers on stairs with use of lighting.

Storage:

  • lighting in closets;
  • adjustable closet rods and shelves; and
  • easy-open doors that do not obstruct access.

Windows:

  • plenty of windows for natural light;
  • low-maintenance exterior and interior finishes;
  • lowered windows, or taller windows with lower sill height; and
  • easy-to-operate hardware.

Advice for those who wish to age in place:

  • Talk with family members about your long-term living preferences. Do you want to downsize to a smaller single-family home, or do you plan to stay put in your traditional family home?
  • Take a look at your finances and retirement funds. With your current savings and assets, will you be able to pay for home maintenance? Consider starting a separate retirement savings account strictly for home maintenance.
  • Remodel your home before your mobility becomes limited. As you age, changes in mobility, hearing, vision and overall health and flexibility will affect how easily you function in your home. Consider making your home “age-friendly” as a phased-in and budgeted home improvement, rather than waiting until you need many modifications at a time due to a health crisis.
  • If you decide before you retire that you want to live in your current home through the remainder of life, consider paying for “big ticket – long life” home projects while you still have a healthy income. Such items may include having the roof assessed or replaced, replacing and upgrading the water heater or cooling unit, completing termite inspections and treatment, having a septic tank inspection and replacement, as needed, and purchasing a riding lawn mower.
  • Healthy living plays a vital role in your ability to age in place. Most seniors leave their homes due to functional and mobility limitations that result from medical crises and an inability to pay for support to stay with them in their home. Effectively managing health risks and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you stay strong, age well, and live long at your own home.

Residential Outbuildings

An alternative to adapting the primary residence is building or adapting an ancillary structure on the property. So-called mother-in-law apartments are sometimes built over detached garages so that the non-primary resident can enjoy some autonomy and independence from the nuclear family in the main house. Carriage houses, barns and studios are often adapted as extra living quarters. While these types of dwellings can be upgraded to offer the basic necessities of a standard home, such as a sleeping area, sitting area, refrigerator, toilet, shower stall and sink, they may lack a bathtub, stove, and separate rooms. The electrical and plumbing services tend to be limited, including the number of receptacles and GFCIs. Also, there may be no HVAC system beyond required system venting.

Mobile housing units, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), practical assisted-living structures (PALS), the nicknamed “med cottages” and “granny-pods” are newer housing innovations that are gaining popularity with homeowners who wish to house aging or infirm relatives on their properties without building an addition onto the primary residence. Both parties are able to enjoy some privacy, and the non-primary resident can achieve an appropriate level of independence. Many of these units have high-tech features, such as electronic medical alert systems, timers, video monitors, and automated floor lighting, such as that which illuminates the path from the bed to the bathroom that turns on by foot pressure.

While these units may incorporate some abbreviated systems of a traditional home (i.e., electrical, plumbing, HVAC), high-tech features such as those described will require installation by a manufacturer’s representative or other knowledgeable expert. Additionally, local zoning laws may have certain requirements for such structures, or may prohibit them altogether. Before families go to the energy and expense of upgrading an ancillary structure, they should check with their local building or zoning department.

Extreme Home Safety: Panic Rooms & Bump Keys

Safe Rooms

A safe room, also known as a panic room, is a fortified room that is installed in a private residence or business to provide a safe hiding place in the event of an emergency.

Some Facts

  • In Mexico, where kidnappings are relatively common, some people use safe rooms as an alternative (or a supplement) to bodyguards.
  • In Israel, bullet- and fire-resistant security rooms have been mandated for all new construction since 1992.
  • Since the 1980s, every U.S. embassy has had a safe room with bullet-resistant glass.
  • Perhaps the largest safe room will belong to the Sultan of Brunei. The planned 100,000-square foot room will be installed beneath his 1,788-room, 2,152,782-square foot residence.

Why are safe rooms used? Reasons include:

  • to hide from burglars. The protection of a safe room will afford residents extra time to contact police;
  • to hide from would-be kidnappers. Many professional athletes, actors and politicians install safe rooms in their houses;
  • protection against natural disasters, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Underground tornado bunkers are common in certain tornado-prone regions of the United States;
  • protection against a nuclear attack. While structures near the blast may be incinerated, those far away may be shielded from radioactive fallout. This type of safe room, known as a fallout shelter and typically located outside the home, was more common during the Cold War than it is today; and
  • to provide a temporary refuge in the event of a serious disease outbreak.

Safe rooms have become a status symbol in wealthy areas such as Bel Air and Manhattan, where it is believed there are thousands of such rooms. However, it is difficult to estimate the number of safe rooms because many homeowners will not publicize their existence in their own homes. Even real estate agents tend to hide the location of safe rooms, or even the fact that a house contains one, until they know a buyer is serious about purchasing the house.

Design

Safe-room designs vary with budget and intended use. Even a closet can be converted into a rudimentary safe room, although it should have a solid-core door with a deadbolt lock. High-end custom models costing hundreds of thousands of dollars boast thick steel walls, video banks, computers, air-cleaning systems, bulletproof Kevlar®, and protection against bacterial and chemical infiltration. Recommendations for specific design elements are as follows:

  • doors: These are one of the most critical components of the safe room design. A bullet-resistant door with internal steel framing can weigh several hundred pounds, yet it must operate smoothly, easily, and without fail in an emergency. The hardware must be selected to provide substantial, secure locking without compromising the smooth operation of the door itself. Most importantly, it must allow the door to be secured quickly, preferably from a single control point. The hardware should not be capable of being overridden or tampered with from the outside.
  • floors: Concrete is an adequate material for the floor. In other forms of floor construction, such as wood, it is important to provide supplementary protection suitable to the anticipated type of emergency. As safe room construction often uses heavy materials, it is important to ensure that the floor can support a large load.
  • sound insulation: The attackers may try to verbally coerce the occupants to leave the safe room. Effective sound insulation will limit the ability for such unwanted communication. Also, sound insulation will prevent the intruders from hearing phone conversations between the occupant and police.
  • walls and ceilings: Wall construction that spans from floor to ceiling is generally preferred because of the structural continuity of the framing. Bricks and blocks, while bullet-resistant, can become dislodged from repeated sledgehammer battering. Steel stud walls, braced with additional reinforcing ties, can be faced with steel sheet or bullet-resistant materials, such as Kevlar®. These, in turn, may be covered with tile, sheetrock or other decorative finishes. Steel and Kevlar® panels are available in large sheet sizes. This helps minimize the number of joints that can be potential weak points of an assembly. It is important to not overlook penetrations that may be made for light fixtures, power points or plumbing pipes. Ductwork that passes through protected walls should also be carefully considered to ensure that the security is not breached or they are not used to transfer poisonous gasses into the safe room.
  • cameras and monitors: Concealed cameras located outside the room enable its occupant to secretly monitor the movement and numbers of intruders. Effective camera systems may incorporate one visible camera outside the room so that an intruder disabling the exposed camera may not think to look for hidden cameras.
  • generator: A self-contained power system is standard in most high-end safe rooms.
  • Items to keep in a safe room:
  • bottled water and non-perishable foods: There should be a small provision of bottled water and non-perishable foods (such as trail mix);
  • communication devices: Ideally, all three of the following devices should be stored in the safe room;
  • a cell phone and charger, which are convenient, but they may not operate through thick safe room walls. The charger will not work if no electrical receptacles are installed, so those are required, too;
  • a land-line phone: Since cell phones may not work in a safe room, or because they may lose power, a land-line phone is recommended. It should, however, be on a separate line from the rest of the house so that intruders are less likely to disable it;
  • a two-way radio;
  • blankets: Occupants might be there for a while;
  • first aid kit: Even if occupants make it to the safe room, they may have been injured by the intruder en route. It is unlikely that he will allow the occupants to re-enter the room after they leave it to look for band-aids;
  • prescription medication: Small quantities of necessary medications should be stored in the safe room, or else occupants may be forced to surrender their position during a medical emergency. Having a hundred cans of tuna and a flat-screen TV does little good if your only asthma inhaler is left on the kitchen table;
  • flashlights: Severe weather can knock out electricity to the house, or intruders may intentionally cut the power;
  • sanitation supplies: Safe rooms built on a budget often don’t have a toilet. A bucket can be used as a low-cost alternative;
  • weapons: If the intruders manage to enter the safe room, occupants should be prepared to defend themselves. Pepper spray is a common choice, and firearms are certainly no less effective; and
  • gas masks, which may become necessary in the event that the intruders force poisonous gas into the safe room. Where an odorless gas might be used, an electronic device may be installed to detect any noxious fumes or poisons.

Bump Keys

Most people think that a locked door affords them security, but to anyone who knows how to use a bump key, a door lock is just a minor inconvenience.

Bump keys are keys cut to a special design that will allow them to be used for picking pin-tumbler locks. Pin-tumbler locks are the world’s most popular lock, and these include exterior door entry locks for homes. The process of gaining entry using a bump key is called “bumping,” and it can be very effective.

All the cuts on a bump key are made to the maximum depth, so any key blank can be made into a bump key. Bump keys are manufacturer-specific. A Kwikset® lock requires a bump key made from a Kwikset® key. The same is true for other lock brands. So, a full set of bump keys would include one for each of the major lockset manufacturers.

How Do They Work?

Keys operate by aligning tiny spring-loaded pins inside the lock. Once the pins are correctly aligned, the cylinder will turn and the lock can be operated.

To use a bump key, the “pull-back” method is common. With this method, the key is inserted all the way in, and then pulled back out one notch. While keeping rotational pressure on the key, it is then bumped into the keyway with the heel of the hand or with a device of some sort. The “bumper” needs to bump the key hard enough to jar the pins, but not so much that the lock or key is damaged. Bumping the key causes the pins to jump slightly. Even this slight amount of motion is enough to allow the bump key to turn the cylinder, unlocking the lock.

The success of the bumper depends on practice. Very little skill is required, and the learning curve is short. Success will also vary with the type of lock and quality of the key. Keys made from soft metal won’t last long. Bumping tends to work better on more expensive locks, since the hard, high-quality parts work more smoothly. Bump keys sometimes deform when they’re hit, causing them to jam in the keyway. They can be difficult to remove.

Can I Buy a Bump Key?

Owning or possessing a bump key is not currently illegal, and bump key sets, and videos on how to use them, are available online. To acquire a bump key, all that’s needed is the identification of the manufacturer of the lock.

How Can I Improve My Home’s Security?

At least two companies, Schlage® and Baldwin, make locksets designed to defeat bump keys. But many locks that use a key and the pin-tumbler system are vulnerable to bumping. No standards exist which demonstrate resistance to bumping. The resistance to bumping a deadbolt lockset varies with the manufacturer. Electronic locks that have a key override are also vulnerable.

Bump-proof locks are rare and expensive. Bump-resistant locks are much more common. Some (but not all) lockset manufacturers include bump-resistant features in their newer locks.

Without buying a new, bump-resistant lock, consumers have two options. Usually, for less than $20, a locksmith can replace the original lock pins with “mushroom” pins, sometimes called spool pins, depending on the manufacturer. While these pins will improve the resistance of the lock, they will not make it bump-proof. Medeco® is a company that makes high-end locks. They can provide bump-proof lock cylinders for which a duplicate key is available only through Medeco®-authorized dealers.

Although bump keys have been around for more than 50 years, their existence has become more widely-known with the advent of the Internet. Consumers should be aware of this potential danger to their home’s security. Taking extra safety precautions, such as installing an alarm system, can provide homeowners with enhanced protection of their property.

Lighting

Color Rendering Index (CRI)

CRI is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of various objects faithfully, in comparison with an ideal or natural light source. The closer the CRI of a lamp is to 100, the more “true” it renders colors in the environment. Poor CRI is the reason that a shirt and pants that seemed to match at home now clash in the restroom at work. Incandescent lights are inefficient but they have a CRI of 100, making them the most aesthetic lighting choice. Compact fluorescents lights (CFLs) are far more efficient and have a longer life than incandescent bulbs, but they have a CRI in the low 60s. Low-voltage halogen and LED lights are relatively efficient, long-lasting, and have a high CRI, although not as high as incandescent bulbs.

Clothes Closet Lighting

People don’t often think about the fire risks posed by the light in their clothes closet, but it’s one of the few places in the house where a source of high heat can get too close to flammable materials. Lighting must be installed safely, with adequate separation from clothes, boxes and other flammables stored in the closet. Additionally, the quality of the light, as well as bulb efficiency, will influence your lighting choices.

The 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) on “Permitted Luminaires and Clearance from Clothing”

The IRC defines a “luminaire” as:

a complete lighting unit consisting of a lamp or lamps, together with the parts designed to distribute the light, to position and protect the lamps and ballast (where applicable), and to connect the lamps to the power supply.

Types of luminaires permitted by the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) include:

  • surface-mounted or recessed incandescent luminaires with completely enclosed lamps, surface-mounted or recessed fluorescent luminaires; and
  • surface-mounted fluorescent or LED luminaires identified as suitable for installation within the storage area.

Luminaires not permitted by the 2009 IRC include:

  • Incandescent luminaires with open or partially enclosed lamps and pendant luminaires or lamp-holders should be prohibited.

Clearances permitted by the 2009 IRC:

  • The minimum distance between luminaires installed in clothes closets and the nearest point of a storage area shall be as follows:
    • Surface-mounted incandescent or LED luminaires with a completely enclosed light source shall be installed on a wall above the door or on the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 12 inches between the fixture and the nearest point of a storage space.
    • Surface-mounted fluorescent luminaires shall be installed on the wall above the door or on the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 6 inches.
    • Recessed incandescent luminaires or LED luminaires with a completely enclosed light source shall be installed in the wall or the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 6 inches.
    • Recessed fluorescent luminaires shall be installed in the wall or on the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 6 inches between the fixture and the nearest point of storage space.
    • Surface-mounted fluorescent or LED luminaires shall be permitted to be installed within the storage space where identified within this use.

Also, metal pull chains may be dangerous; if the base cracks, the chain can become electrified.

Homeowners should replace lighting in their clothes closets if the light has the potential to ignite flammable materials in the closet.

Nightlights

A nightlight is a small, low-powered electrical light source placed for comfort or convenience in indoor areas that become dark at night.

Facts and Figures

  • Before they were powered electrically, nightlights were usually long-burning candles placed in fireproof metal cups, known as tealights in some countries. (Tealights in the U.S. refer to very short and wide candles that can be purchased within or without an aluminum tin cup that are commonly used inside a decorative glass holder. They are also known as votive candles.)
  • There are roughly 90 million nightlights purchased each year in the United States. In 2001 alone, more than 600,000 of them were recalled by manufacturers for safety reasons.
  • Defective nightlights can cause fires, burns and electrocution.

Uses

Nightlights are typically installed to create a sense of security and to alleviate fears of the dark, especially for children. They also illuminate the general layout of a room without causing the eyestrain created by a standard light, helping to prevent tripping down stairs and over objects. This is an important safety measure for older adults, for whom falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths, according to the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. Nightlights may also be used to mark an emergency exit.

Types

A wide variety of nightlights is available to homeowners; bulbs vary from incandescent to energy-efficient options, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs), neon lamps, and electroluminescent bulbs. Some of these devices are equipped with a light-sensitive switch that activates the light only when it’s dark enough for them to be required, saving electricity and the effort needed to manually turn them on and off. Some designs also incorporate a rechargeable battery so they will continue to function during power outages.

Nightlights present the following hazards:

  • fire. Nightlights can become excessively hot, causing them to melt and pose a risk of fire if they come in contact with flammable materials, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC receives roughly 10 reports annually of fires that were caused when nightlights ignited toilet paper, pillows, bedspreads and other flammable materials. In many of these cases, the nightlight was installed so close to the bed that falling blankets or pillows made contact with the nightlight and started a fire. For this reason, nightlights should not be plugged in next to bed coverings, curtains, and other potentially flammable objects and materials. Nightlights should not covered with tape, cardboard or any other material that might cause them to overheat. Homeowners may consider using nightlights equipped with mini neon bulbs instead of higher-wattage bulbs;
  • poisoning. So-called “bubble” nightlights are special, decorative nightlights that contain a dangerous chemical called methylene chloride. If the vial breaks, the unit should be thrown away immediately and precautions should be taken to avoid skin contact with the leaking chemical; and
  • electric shock. Nightlights pose the risk of electric shock when used outdoors or in locations that may become wet, such near sinks, hot tubs, in garages, and at covered patios. They should never be plugged into an extension cord, surge-protector strip, multiple-outlet strip, or other movable types of receptacles. Electric shock is also possible if the nightlight overheats and melts.

Additional Tips

  • Plug the nightlight into an exposed wall outlet where it will be well-ventilated.
  • Do not repair any nightlight yourself. Only replace the bulb.
  • Avoid installing nightlights in locations where they might be exposed to excessive sunlight, as UV rays will degrade the plastic.
  • Never let children handle nightlights. If you have small children, avoid purchasing or installing a nightlight decorated with cute or funny figures to which they may be attracted and that may be easy for them to reach.

Dryer Vent Maintenance & Safety

House fires caused by dryers are far more common than are generally believed. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, fires caused by dryers in 2005 were responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint cleanup and maintenance. Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent.

Clothes dryers evaporate the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or gas burner. Some heavy garment loads can contain more than a gallon of water that will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer and home through an exhaust duct, more commonly known as the dryer vent.

A vent that exhausts damp air to the home’s exterior has a number of requirements:

  •    It should be connected. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may it be under it. Look carefully to make sure it’s actually connected.
  •    It should not be restricted. Dryer vents are often made from flexible plastic or metal duct, which may be easily kinked or crushed where they exit the dryer and enter the wall or floor. This is often a problem since dryers tend to be tucked away into small areas with little room to work. Vent hardware is available that is designed to turn 90 degrees in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air.  Air flow restrictions are a potential fire hazard.
  •    One of the reasons that restrictions pose a fire hazard is that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet clothes, the exhaust stream carries lint – highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton, wool and polyester. Lint can accumulate in an exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates as heat energy within the machine. As the dryer overheats, a subsequent mechanical failure can trigger a spark, which can cause the lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition can cause the whole house to catch fire.  Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the home’s walls.

Problems & Tips

If your dryer vent terminates in the crawlspace or attic, it can deposit moisture there, which can encourage the growth of mold, wood decay, and other structural problems. The vent may also terminate just under the attic ventilators. This is also a defective installation. Make sure your dryer vent terminates at the exterior and away from any doors and windows so that damp, exhausted air won’t re-enter the home. Also, the end of the dryer vent should have a free-moving damper installed to keep out birds and other pests that like to build nests in this warm environment. If you find a screen, this is a defective installation because a screen can block lint and other debris, causing it to accumulate and leading to a house fire. If it’s safety accessible, make sure your dryer vent is unobstructed and that the damper works properly.