Category Archives: Safety

‘BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE’: GREAT SONG, NOT A GOOD IDEA FOR YOUR HOUSE

It’s surprising how often I come across this issue when doing home inspections: metal flue pipes serving furnaces and water heaters that come in contact with roof sheathing and underlayment in the attic. When this occurs, it’s a very obvious safety issue.

This issue is especially common when roofs are replaced. Why? Contractors may neglect to appropriately cut back roofing materials during installation. 

If you want to make sure your home doesn’t inspire David Byrne to write another song about burning structures, you’d be well-served to provide 1-inch of clearance, free and clear, around the flue pipe at all times. And again, this is especially important if you have had your roof recently replaced.


Safety: Anti-tip brackets for ranges

Anti-tip brackets are metal devices designed to prevent freestanding ranges from tipping. They are normally attached to one of the rear legs of the range or screwed into the wall behind the range, and are included in all installation kits. A unit that is not equipped with these devices may tip over if enough weight is applied to its open door, such as that from a large Thanksgiving turkey, or even a small child. A falling range can crush, scald, or burn anyone caught beneath.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 143 incidents caused by range tip-overs from 1980 to 2006. Of the 33 incidents that resulted in death, most of those victims were children. A small child may stand on an open range door in order to see what is cooking on the stovetop and accidentally cause the entire unit to fall on top of him, along with whatever hot items may have been cooking on the stovetop. The elderly, too, may be injured while using the range for support while cleaning.

In response to this danger, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) created standards in 1991 that require all ranges manufactured after that year to be capable of remaining stable while supporting 250 pounds of weight on their open doors. Manufacturers’ instructions, too, require that anti-tip brackets provided be installed.

Check Your Range

It may be possible to see a wall-mounted bracket by looking over the rear of the range. Floor-mounted brackets are often hidden, although in some models with removable drawers, such as 30-inch electric ranges made by General Electric, the drawers can be removed and a flashlight can be used to search for the bracket.

A more certain test is trying to carefully tip the range. The range should be turned off, and all items should be removed from the stovetop first. Then, firmly grip the upper-rear section of the range and tip the unit. If it’s equipped with an anti-tip bracket, the unit will not tip more than several inches before coming to a halt. It is usually easier to detect a bracket by tipping the range than through a visual search. This test can be performed on all models and it can confirm the functionality of a bracket.

Safety: Install Anti-Tip Bracket at Oven/Range

Tim Hance of All Islands Home Inspections shows a range oven missing its anti-tip bracket. These brackets come standard with all ranges, but are rarely installed. It’s a simple installation- the bracket simply screws into the floor and the oven leg “seats” into the bracket when pushed into place- and highly recommended for safety reasons. If a child steps on the open oven door, or if you have a large dish (turkey?), the oven could tip over. This has happened in the past, with fatal consequences, hence the anti-tip bracket is important to be installed. Thanks for watching and listening!

Barbecue safety tips

This information was provided courtesy of the ICC Foundation and has some great tips, information, and advice about grilling safety. Enjoy!

  1. Place the barbecue grill away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. It is also unsafe to use grills in a garage, porch or enclosed area that could trap carbon monoxide. Never grill on top of anything that can catch on fire.
  2. When grilling, have a fire extinguisher, a garden hose or at least 4 gallons of water close by in case of a fire.
  3.  Keep children away from fires and grills. Establish a safety zone around the grill and instruct the children to remain outside of the zone. A chalk line works great for this purpose. Never leave the grill unattended.

CUT TRUSSES in Garage!

Tim Hance with All Islands Home Inspections recently discovered unconventionally constructed trusses in a garage that have been cut at a home inspection on Orcas Island. Cutting trusses is expressly NOT ALLOWED as it can, and likely will, lead to structural settling and failure over time. In this case, the roof plane showed clear evidence of settling/sagging when viewed from the exterior; when I went inside, it was clear why the roof was settling. With an appropriate snow load, or with time, some of these trusses will likely crack and fail. In this particular situation, repair was difficult because the trusses were cut to accommodate large garage doors; the recommended interim solution was to install intermediate posts and beams, in the middle of the garage, to properly support the roof and allow for vehicle access and egress.

Textured “popcorn” ceilings and asbestos

Textured “popcorn” ceilings, like that pictured here, could contain asbestos, especially in homes constructed prior to 1978.  Because some sheetrock and painting contractors kept stores of this material into the early 1980s, it’s possible that textured “popcorn” ceilings in the 1980s could contain asbestos as well.  Provided the material is in good condition and not delaminating from the ceiling, this isn’t a health concern because it’s not considered “friable,” e.g., you can’t breathe it.  But if you intend to remodel (or scrape) “popcorn” ceilings, or it they’re in poor condition, testing is advised.  Asbestos can only be confirmed by laboratory testing.  This was discovered at a recent home inspection in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island.

DANGEROUSLY LOW Electrical Wires!

Tim Hance, owner of All Islands Home Inspections, recently discovered dangerously low overhead electrical service entrance conductors that were a clear safety issue at a recent home inspection in Friday Harbor, WA. Additionally, these older wires were unconventionally run alongside the home’s exterior and vulnerable to mechanical damage. A qualified electrician was recommended to further evaluate and make necessary repairs for safety reasons.

Proper wiring for hot tubs

So, you’ve decided it’s time to finally get a hot tub!  It’s important to install wiring serving the hot tub properly for obvious safety reasons.  Pictured here is wiring simply run in the grass to the hot tub appliance. Hopefully it doesn’t get hit by a lawn mower or someone doesn’t trip over it!  Wiring should be sleeved in conduit, run underground to the hot tub and have a GFCI-protected subpanel installed within sight of the hot tub and readily accessible.  Also, any and all wiring modifications or additions at a home require a permit and inspection through the Department of Labor & Industries.  This was discovered at a recent home inspection in Mount Vernon.

Temperature pressure relief (TPR) valves

Pictured here is a typical TPR (temperature-pressure-relief) valve, installed on all water heaters.  Code requires the installation of a ¾-inch solid pipe, discharging to the exterior or extending to within six (6) inches of the floor for safety reasons.  The TPR valve is designed to discharge high temperature and/or high pressure water if the water heater overheats or develops too much internal pressure.  Without a TPR valve, the water heater could literally blow up in the event of overheating or excessive pressure build-up.  The reason we extend the pipe is because, in the event that it discharges, we don’t want it discharging high pressure, high temperature water towards a person which would be a definite safety issue.   This was discovered at a recent home inspection on Shaw Island in the San Juan Islands.