How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes
Does a home inspector check for trip hazards?
Saturday, September 29, 2018
Trip hazards are not addressed directly in the Standards of Practice for home inspectors in the State of Florida and of the two national home inspector associations, American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). But all of them require inspection of the interior and exterior walking surfaces and make “recommendations to correct, or monitor for future correction, the deficiencies reported."
We call out any abrupt change in the level of a walking surface of a half-inch or more. A typical trip hazard is a heaved section of a concrete walkway due to tree roots or settlement. Also, sometimes a weekend warrior’s installation of a tile floor in one room of a home without an adequate transition slope down to the original floor level in an adjacent room will create a trip hazard. See our blog post What floor level change is a trip hazard?
Another part of the home that can cause a fall if not installed properly is the stairs. Walking down a flight of stairs is a kind of controlled falling in itself, so any loss on balance will induce an actual fall. Because you expect each riser height to be the same, even a minor change in height will throw a person off of their cadence and may induce a fall. Low ceiling clearance above a stair run is another fall hazard: someone that bumps their head while looking down at where they are stepping while ascending or descending the stairs will likely take a tumble. Lack of an adequate hand-grip along at least one side of the stairs is also a safety defect.
Yet another fall hazard is created when an indoor-rated tile with a smooth surface is installed at an outdoor location. Tile for exterior installation is required to have a slip-resistance rating, called a “coefficient of friction,” of 0.60 or more. Ramps require a rating of 0.80 or more. The manufacturer lists the coefficient of friction in their specifications on the packaging. While we can’t determine the coefficient of friction of installed tile during an inspection, it is always obvious when a smooth tile has been used.
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