This time of year, with all the ice and snow, we are all a little more cautious and aware of the surfaces underfoot. But a good home inspector pays attention to these safety details all year long, on a daily basis. That’s why it is common for inspection reports to include red flags or recommendations that relate to such things as walkway, floor tile, stairway, and decking or balcony maintenance and safety.
After all, tripping, slipping, and falling are not just accidents that happen in the dead of winter. One of the primary responsibilities of a home inspector is to ensure that the property is safe – for you, your family, and for any guests or others who may visit your home. So don’t be surprised if your home inspection report includes a mention one or more of these items – whether you are a potential buyer who ordered the inspection or you hired the inspector as a homeowner preparing to put your house on the market.
Improper Stair Design:
Stairs need to be designed with correct proportions, otherwise they can cause you to stumble. The “rise” is the part of each step that is vertical, and the “run” is the horizontal part that you step on as you climb. If those are not the right length or width, your inspector may recommend a repair or redesign.
Oftentimes people enjoy recreation on a deck or balcony while barefoot, and toddlers may also crawl around on those surfaces. So if the materials used are prone to splintering, that can be a hazard. The inspector may recommend an upgraded surface or new decking boards, for example, if the existing ones are splintered, chipped, or otherwise not smooth and safe.
Walkways and Balconies:
The same applies to nails or screws that may be protruding up that could cause a trip or puncture. Outdoor walkways may also present tripping hazards, so sometimes these will be flagged. Potholes in driveways may also be pointed out as problematic, as may significantly cracked or broken concrete or tile surfaces on balconies.
Other tripping hazards include wall-to-wall carpet that is not properly installed such that there are ripples in the carpet or other places where the carpet can cause you to stumble. Similarly, ceramic floors in kitchens, bathrooms, or mud rooms that are not slip resistant enough can be hazardous – especially since they are prone to getting wet.
The inspection report may also include recommendations to repair or replace items that are not necessarily underfoot, but still relate to slipping and falling. When you are walking up stairs, for example, you need to have a steady handrail. If you are leaning on the balcony or deck, the sides of that structure need to be high enough that you won’t accidentally tip over and fall. Walkways and stairs also have to have adequate lighting so that you can see where you are stepping. So there are a variety of issues related to walking and stepping that may also be flagged by your inspector.
What to Do Next
Review the report and clarify anything you don’t understand with your inspector. Then share the report with a qualified contractor who have the skills and know-how to help you remedy, replace, or upgrade any items on the report that need to be addressed. You may need to get bids, for example, from repair people who specialize in masonry and concrete or decks or carpet installation.
After getting bids and opinions, if the inspection was part of a sales transaction then the buyer and seller will negotiate. Sometimes the seller will give a discount equal to the cost of the repair, for instance, or will pay to have it taken care of before closing out their own pocket.