Safety Items That Make Or Break A Home Inspection Report

Identify safety concerns early to avoid hazards on your report

Hey everyone, Inspector Gary here! Today I am going to talk about safety concerns. There are some typical safety items that make home inspection reports that with just a little effort can be avoided on the report. First, let’s identify a safety concern. A safety concern is anything that can possibly cause bodily injury to a person due to a defect within a product or structure. There are lots and lots of things that can go into reports under this description so today we are going to stick with the basic easy-to-fix and the ones that are low cost but will come up on a report most every time if they are defective.

1. GFCI Outlets

Let’s talk about GFCI’s. I used to be surprised when someone asked me “What’s that?” I have learned over the years not everyone spent their entire lives in the construction industry like me — LOL! So the easiest way for me to explain so that everyone gets it is the outlet with the two buttons on it, which is called a GFCI outlet. GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.

gfci outlet gray wall

The buttons on a GFCI are basically mechanically operated so think of them like your car, which is mechanical, it needs maintenance every so often, correct? Well, so do those 2 button outlets. Most GFCI outlets even say on them TEST WEEKLY. Now while I think this is excessive myself, I do check mine at home about every 6 months. Problem is the buttons can freeze up if not worked occasionally. They don’t require a fancy tester to test, just your finger. Snap it and reset it… Boom, done! Typically this is just a matter of swapping out the bad one and putting in a new one if it will not test out.

Now that we’ve checked the GFCI function, go check to make sure they are in the correct places. There should be GFCI protection in bathrooms and kitchens at all counter spaces. Exterior outlets should be GFCI protected with an exterior watertight cover on them to protect them from the elements. We now also call them out in garages and in laundry rooms and at sump pumps. Does every outlet in my kitchen need those buttons? No, there is what we call the beginning of the run outlet, that is the outlet where the electric starts and then an electrician would pull the other outlets off that outlet. The beginning of the run outlet is where a GFCI needs to be placed. This will protect all the other outlets back to the GFCI.

2. Railings and the Three Step Rule

There is a rule of thumb most inspectors follow called the “Three Step Rule” to justify railings on a set of stairs. Since local codes change so much from area to area, we generalize and use the three step rule. If it takes three steps or more to get to, it should have a railing. If not, we are taking a picture and putting arrows or circles where there is none. What about loose railings? Yup, we write these up in the home inspection report. Basically, we shake the railing and if it moves around easily, it is loose. Railing should be able to hold the weight of an average person and if it is shaky and loose, then more than likely it will not hold. Typically, this is a simple fix that often involves a handful of torque screws but even better sometimes the case being simply loose carriage bolts at the newels so you just need a wrench to get the job done.
staircase railing looking downstairs

So these are just a few safety hazards we touched on today. I am always happy to answer questions or concerns about your homes so feel free to give me a call if you need help!

Gary Reisinger Jr., CMI

Preserve Inspections


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