Watch Your Steps. . . and Walks
Tripping and falling is a very common accident that can happen at any property.
You will want to make sure your new home is safe. Here are some of the
things to look out for.
You are most likely to view a house in the daylight, so you may not notice
that there is no lighting at the front sidewalk stairs. Just hope that
your friends who come to visit can find the stairs with their feet when
they arrive with your housewarming present; what good is a broken vase?
To avoid problems, drive by the property at night and check the lighting.
Perhaps lighting from a street lamp will be adequate; otherwise, plan
on installing an exterior lamp.
As you walk along the sidewalk, look for wide cracks, "lips" that stick
up, and dips in the surface. Any of these, whether in brick, concrete
or asphalt, can serve as a place to make people lose their footing.
Sidewalks should be even and not steep. A steeply graded sidewalk may
need a handrail to be safe in winter. As a visual aid, try to imagine
yourself walking up to the house with a package after a freezing rain.
Landscape timber stairs can be particularly treacherous if they contain
settled fill and have "lips" at the treads where the timbers are higher
than the level of the fill material. Another hazard at wood stairs
is the presence of slimy, green growth. Steps that receive no sun should
be cleaned and waterproofed periodically to avoid slippery surfaces.
It is my opinion that all stairs, though
not required, should have handrails.
Stairs made of masonry materials such as brick, block and concrete are
subject to spalling and must be maintained to remain safe. Spalling
occurs when moisture penetrates porous masonry and freezes, causing
the surfaces to crumble away. The damage is most severe at corners and
edges of masonry where fluctuations in wind velocity can cause repeated
freezing and thawing even when the outside temperature is above freezing.
Broken tread edges from spalling can cause a shoe to lose its grip.
Loose bricks on stair treads are a particularly unsafe trip hazard. Missing
or cracked bricks can similarly cause someone to misstep and fall. Look
carefully at brick stairs as loose masonry is not always apparent; physically
try to move the bricks. The presence of many loose bricks, missing and
crumbling mortar and bulges in what were once flat surfaces are indications
that the stairs may need a costly rebuilding, not just a repair.
From "JUST PROPERTY"
By J. May