Archives for July 2013

A Stairway to Heaven

Properly built and equipped stairs are easy to use whether you are familiar with the house in question or not. Unsafe stairs are an accident waiting to happen. The homeowner may claim that, “those stairs have been like that for years and no-one has gone to the hospital yet”. The keyword is ‘yet’. Along with other criteria, home inspectors want to see stairs that are: solid; level; consistent and compliant in step height and tread depth; have sufficient head-room; are well-lit; and appropriately guarded by handrails and ballasters.

It doesn’t seem like much of a big deal when one step is a different size, but if you expect the next one to be like the last one, the surprise can easily take you for a tumble. We often see this on decks where pre-cut stringers or improperly installed interlock create an odd-sized step at the top or bottom. Stairs must be custom fit to evenly divide the overall height between the platforms with a consistent rise that conforms to the range specified in your local building code. Here are a few examples of the kind of things we often see.

Trip hazard Inconsistent steps
Trip hazard Inconsistent steps
Stair with no light or handrail Stairs not level
No light or handrail Stairs not level
Stair with no landing or handrail Stairs broken
Stair with no landing or handrail Stairs broken

Not having sufficient light in a stairwell is risky. Having no light and no handrail is temping fate. Each additional non-conforming factor just adds to the risk. Broken stairs and treads that aren’t level can be treacherous. Exterior stairs can ice up in cold weather and be very slippery. Landings are required to safely enter and exit buildings with more than three risers.

Home inspectors pay such close attention to steps and stairways to improve stair safety. According to the mortality data from Statistics Canada, there were 388 deaths due to falling down stairs and steps (table 102-0540, 2009). One can only assume that there are many times more stair-related injuries as well. If you recognize any of these issues on the stairs in your home, take corrective action now. Make sure that the only stairway to heaven in your home is on a playlist.


Author: Rob Cornish is a Home Inspector in Ottawa, Canada. © 2013 HomeXam Inc.
If you took the time to read this post, please take the time to Google+ it. Thanks.

Don’t Get Hosed by your Washing Machine

Traditional rubber washing machine hoses that feed hot and cold water to your washer can deteriorate over time. This makes them susceptible to rupturing and potentially flooding your home. The recent trend of locating laundry facilities on the second floor of the home for proximity to the bedrooms further exacerbates the problem, as the flooding occurs in finished areas of the home rather than a basement. Having a drainage tray installed is a good and helps if the pump housing breaks, but ruptured hoses will spray in all directions circumventing the tray’s protection.

Below on the left is a picture of a washing machine supplied by rubber hoses. On the right you can see what steel-braided washing machine hoses look like. You can buy them in a package of two for about twenty-five dollars at the big box hardware stores. All you need is access to the back of the machine and a pair of pliers to install them. The principle is that the wrapping of the hose with the steel braid reinforces the hose and does a better job preventing ruptures. Make sure there are no kinks after you install your new hoses.

rubber supply hoses steel-braided hoses

While we’re on the topic, you can lessen the risk by turning off the shutoff valves while you are away on vacation. A lot of water can pass through a pressurized hose in a week or two. Newer plumbing installations (as per picture to the right above) have a single lever ball-valve that makes this easy. Of course you still have to remember to use it.

Is age the only factor that causes rubber hoses to burst? Well, probably not. Another factor that I think contributes is water-hammering. The solenoid valve in a washing machine that controls the water flow pretty much goes from full flow to no flow in a split second. The sudden stop of the pressurized water really hammers the pipe and supply hoses. Not all all water supplies have hammering that you’ll hear, but the surge of water still sends a shock wave through the line. Like most things in life, the weakest components fail first. If you have old rubber supply hoses, you have a flood waiting to happen.

Anti-hammering devices can be installed between the hose connection and the supply line to reduce the effects of the hydraulic pressure wave. They act as a shock absorber to reduce hammering and the noise that commonly accompanies it. Here’s an article at About.com that shows you an anti-hammering device and discusses how to install them.

As a Home Inspector I frequently comment on rubber supply hoses to washing machines.I hope these tips help you to be comfortable and safe in your new home.


Author: Rob Cornish is a Home Inspector in Ottawa, Canada. © 2013 HomeXam Inc.
If you took the time to read this post, please take the time to Google+ it. Thanks.

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On YoutubeVisit Us On Linkedin