With the arrival of March, the Spring Cleaning bug takes hold of some of us. Might I suggest that while you’re cleaning out your junk drawer and organizing your closet that you also look around to make sure your home isn’t full of accidents waiting to happen. Big thanks to Realty World Selzer Realty Construction team leader Matt Jacobson for sharing his expertise so I could write this column.
1. GFI Outlets
A GFI, or GFCI – Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, is a device that protects us from electrocution resulting from faulty electrical devices in our home. These outlets are the ones with the little reset button on them, and they are most often found on outlets near water, since water and electricity don’t play well together. They are also found on outlets on the exterior of your home (exterior outlets should also have weather covers on them). If you have outlets near your bathroom tubs or kitchen sinks without a reset button, consider an upgrade.
2. Fuses to Breakers
Fuse boxes and circuit breakers are designed to prevent fires by stopping the flow of electricity when circuits get overheated. Old houses often have fuse boxes, while newer houses have circuit breakers. When a fuse blows you have to replace it, because the filament melts and that’s what breaks the circuit. When a breaker is thrown, all you have to do is turn it all the way off and turn it back on again. Both can be perfectly safe, but fuse boxes allow for some user error. For example, it’s possible to use an oversized fuse; a 30-amp fuse can fit in a 20-amp circuit, which is a serious fire hazard. Also, purely from a convenience standpoint, in the middle of the night when it’s pitch dark, it’s a lot easier to flip a switch than it is to replace a fuse (assuming you happen to have one handy).
Like many construction standards, the requirements for railings have become more rigorous over time, and for good reason: railings that can’t bear weight or that allow small children to squeeze through don’t protect people very well. Railings are required anytime you could fall off a ledge and hurt yourself (from a 30-inch step to a second-story balcony). Openings between slats should be small enough to prevent a 4-inch sphere from fitting through, and the railing should be able to withstand 200 pounds of side impact.
While not officially “railings,” grab bars are also a good idea for safety and convenience in bathrooms around toilets, in shower stalls, and near bathtubs.
4. Pool Enclosures
Kissing cousins to railings are pool enclosures (fences, walls, or other barriers). The California Health and Safety Code Section 115923 says this:
An enclosure shall have all of the following characteristics:
(a) Any access gates through the enclosure open away from the swimming pool, and are self-closing with a self-latching device placed no lower than 60 inches above the ground.
(b) A minimum height of 60 inches.
(c) A maximum vertical clearance from the ground to the bottom of the enclosure of two inches.
(d) Gaps or voids, if any, do not allow passage of a sphere equal to or greater than four inches in diameter.
(e) An outside surface free of protrusions, cavities, or other physical characteristics that would serve as handholds or footholds that could enable a child below the age of five years to climb over.
5. Exterior Stairs
While stairs are always a good place to pay attention to your footing, exterior stairs can really benefit from some visual cues like contrasting warning stripes made of non-slip tread on the first and last stair.
If you have questions about home safety tips, real estate or property management, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.