Fix It: Annual home inspections

I had an experience yesterday taking my Walls R Us truck in for its annual test.

home inspector 88 (photo credit: )
home inspector 88
(photo credit: )
I had an experience yesterday taking my Walls R Us truck in for its annual test. The truck failed because the exhaust pipe exits the rear right of the vehicle and not straight out to the back. This is not a new truck; it has been this way since 1994. Even the replacement exhaust systems made for this vehicle exit the rear right. However, the official Motor Vehicle law requires the pipe to exit the rear, and my vehicle was adapted to meet this new law. This got me thinking. What if we really took a careful look at our homes and not had that attitude that it was always this way, so it is fine? I am in no way advocating mandatory home inspections, similar to the vehicle inspections/test. All I am suggesting is that we look around our homes and see if things are being done in the most efficient and safe manner as possible, even if it has always been that way. The following are some examples of items we should review in our homes. Electrical: Do we meet the current building code when it comes to number of outlets in each room? I have been in many homes where extension cords are found all over the home. This is a safety hazard. Yes, homes in the past were wired with only one outlet per room, which was adequate back then. However, with today's rooms having a TV, DVD, computer, printer, Xbox, alarm clock, hair dryer, etc, it is no longer adequate. A licensed electrician should come and update the electricity. Window bars: Window bars are great. It allows you to open your windows while still having the security that makes it difficult for the thieves to get in. Unfortunately, many of the bars used are just grates. This means that in the case of a fire or some other emergency, you cannot exit from the window, either. Window bars should be designed in a way that allows someone to open them with a key. It is also important that the key be left inside the home near the window so that it can be easily found and the bars quickly unlocked in the event of an emergency. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: New homes all come with them, but many older homes still have not installed them. Ideally, each room should have its own smoke detector. At the very least, one should be mounted in the hallway outside the bedrooms. This rather simple device has saved many lives by sending out a shrieking alarm, which wakes up anyone who is sleeping and allows them enough time to escape serious injury or worse. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and undetectable gas that is emitted from natural gas heaters, stoves and the like and cannot be detected without a Carbon Monoxide Detector. This unseen gas kills many each year, and the only way to prevent this is to have a detector. Tip: Change the battery on your detectors twice a year. It is easy to remember to change them when you change your clock in the spring and fall. It is far better to spend a little extra on safety than the alternative. Prevent things from tipping: Ovens, bookcases and cupboards all come with safety brackets to brace them to the wall to prevent tipping over. Children have been injured by pulling on the oven, and causing the entire oven to tip over on them. Children have used bookcases as ladders to climb on only to be seriously hurt. Many of these accidents are preventable if the time is taken to brace them to the wall. Even if you have an older cupboard that did not come with these safety braces, it is always a good idea to upgrade to the latest safety devices available. Appliances: All appliances should be properly installed and have the proper wiring they require. If three-phase is required, have a licensed electrician upgrade your current needs. You cannot expect wiring put in 30 years ago to meet the needs of the modern appliances. Dryers: A dryer must be properly vented outside. Fires can occur when lint builds up in the dryer or in the exhaust duct. Lint can block the flow of air, cause excessive heat build-up, and result in a fire in some dryers. Check the outside dryer vent while the dryer is operating to make sure exhaust air is escaping. If it is not, the vent or the exhaust duct may be blocked. To remove a blockage in the exhaust path, it may be necessary to disconnect the exhaust duct from the dryer. Remember to reconnect the ducting to the dryer and outside vent before using the dryer again. Hopefully, by looking at these items as well as looking objectively throughout your home, you can make improvements that will only lead to more comfort and safety and enjoyment of your home. Tip from a reader on last month's article on moving a laundry room upstairs: Instead of going through the expense of moving the washer and dryer upstairs, just make a laundry chute. Depending on the layout of your home, you could possibly make a hole from the upstairs bathroom that will lead into the laundry room downstairs. Although this does not bring the laundry upstairs for you, it does alleviate a good part of the schlepping at a fraction of the cost. Today's Do-It-Yourself Tip: Isopropyl alcohol - it's not only a great disinfectant but can help remove the most stubborn stains in garments. Reader's tips and comments are always welcome! The authors can be reached via (02) 585-9559 and at