The property inspector is trained to recognize safety defects and to call them out, particularly circumstances that endanger children. As a property inspector, I see accidents waiting to happen all the time, some major, some nearly insignificant, but rarely realized by the property owners as a problem. The purpose of this post is to heighten the awareness of owners and buyers by presenting some child safety tips during property inspections.
These property inspector tips are not difficult to follow or implement, but they could end up making a tremendous difference. This is true whether children of your own live in the house or other children visit on occasion. Potential dangers you could prevent range from electrical shock to falling to being trapped, crushed, or burned. Use this guide to formulate your own inspection checklist and put your mind at ease.
Perhaps the most important safety measures to take are sufficient protections against fire, smoke, carbon monoxide, and electrical shock. There is no excuse not to install an interconnected network of smoke alarms and/or bring them up to current code. This typically means one in each bedroom, one in the hall outside of bedrooms, and at least one on each floor. Nowadays CO detectors are also required in new properties, and these are another good idea if you have gas appliances.
Fires can also ignite from faulty wiring. Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) breakers address this problem and are often installed on bedroom circuits. Their cousins, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) breakers, protect against electrical shock and should be installed on kitchen counter, bathroom, outdoor, and garage receptacles. It is also a good idea to draw up an escape plan in case of fire. Conduct complete fire drills periodically, so that all occupants are prepared, especially children. Consult a property inspector if you have questions.
Inspect all stairs, guardrails, and handrails. If there are any drops greater than thirty inches without a guardrail, install one. Check spacing in open step risers and in between balusters. It should not be possible for a four-inch sphere to pass through. Handrails should be easily graspable, meaning that they should be roughly cylindrical with a diameter of 1.5 inches and positioned at least 1.5 inches from the wall.
Inspect all windows and determine if tempered glass is used. Code calls for tempered glass for windows less than eighteen inches above the floor, windows next to landings or stairs, windows above tubs, windows less than two feet away from an exterior door, and mirrors or glass in sliding or hinged doors. Also check that at least one window in each bedroom can be used for emergency egress; consult with a property inspector or the building code for dimensional requirements. Upper-story bedrooms should be supplied with rope ladders and below-grade egress windows require a well with a ladder. Ensure the occupants are familiar with ladder safety.
Now for some miscellaneous safety tips for property inspections. Prevent accidental scalding by setting the water heater thermostat no higher than 120°F. Check to see that the oven has an anti-tip bracket installed. Inspect the garage door to ensure the auto-reverse mechanism functions properly, both by interruption of the electric eye beam and from pressure resistance. And if you have a pool or spa, check that the area is completely fenced with self-closing gates. A good property inspection tip is to install an underwater sensor of water impact that can trip an alarm.