Precision Point Inspections, LLC Daniel 
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© 2015 International Association of Certified Home Inspectors & Master Inspector Certification 
Table of Contents 
Child Safety 
12 Safety Devices to Protect Your Children 
About 2.5 million children are injured or killed by hazards in the home each year. The good 
news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by using simple childsafety 
devices on 
the market today. Any safety device you buy should be sturdy enough to prevent injury to your 
child, yet easy for you to use. It's important to follow installation instructions carefully. 
In addition, if you have older children in the house, be sure they resecure 
safety devices. 
Remember, too, that no device is completely childproof; determined youngsters have been 
known to disable them. You can childproof your home for a fraction of what it would cost to have 
a professional do it. And safety devices are easy to find. You can buy them at hardware stores, 
baby equipment shops, supermarkets, drug stores, home and linen stores, and through online 
and mailorder 
Here are some childsafety 
devices that can help prevent many injuries to young children: 
1. Use safety latches and locks for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, bathrooms, and other 
areas to help prevent poisonings and other injuries. Safety latches and locks on cabinets and 
drawers can help prevent children from gaining access to medicines and household cleaners, 
as well as knives and other sharp objects. 
Look for safety latches and locks that adults can easily install and use, but that are sturdy 
enough to withstand pulls and tugs from children. Safety latches are not a guarantee of 
protection, but they can make it more difficult for children to reach dangerous substances. Even 
products with childresistant 
packaging should be locked away out of reach; this packaging is 
not childproof. 
According to Colleen Driscoll, executive director of the International Association for Child Safety 
(IAFCS), "Installing an ineffective latch on a cabinet is not an answer for helping parents with 
safety. It is important to understand parental habits and behavior. While a latch that loops 
around cabinet knob covers is not expensive and easy to install, most parents do not 
consistently relatch 
Parents should be sure to purchase and install safety products that they will actually adapt to 
and use. 
2. Use safety gates to help prevent falls down stairs and to keep children away from dangerous 
areas. Look for safety gates that children cannot dislodge easily, but that adults can open and 
close without difficulty. For the top of stairs, gates that screw into the wall are more secure than 
"pressure gates." 
New safety gates that meet safety standards display a certification seal from the Juvenile 
Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). If you have an older safety gate, be sure it doesn't 
have "V" shapes that are large enough for a child's head and neck to fit into. 
3. Use door locks to help prevent children from entering rooms and other areas with possible 
dangers, including swimming pools. 
To prevent access to swimming pools, door locks on safety gates should be placed high, out of 
reach of young children. Locks should be used in addition to fences and alarms. Sliding glass 
doors with locks that must be resecured 
after each use are often not an effective barrier to pool 
Door knob covers, while inexpensive and recommended by some, are generally not effective for 
children who are tall enough to reach the doorknob; a child's ingenuity and persistence can 
usually trump the cover's effectiveness. 
4. Use antiscald 
devices for faucets and showerheads, and set your water heater temperature 
to 120° F to help prevent burns from hot water. A plumber may need to install these. 
5. Use smoke detectors on every level of your home and near bedrooms to alert you to fires. 
Smoke detectors are essential safety devices for protection against fire deaths and injuries. 
Check them once a month to make sure they're working. If the detectors are batteryoperated, 
replace the batteries at least once a year, or consider using 10year 
6. Use window guards and safety netting to help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks 
and landings. These can help prevent serious injuries. Check these safety devices frequently to 
make sure they are properly installed, secure and maintained. There should be no more than 4 
inches between the bars of the window guard. If you have window guards, be sure at least one 
window in each room can be easily used for escape in case of a fire. Window screens are not 
effective for preventing children from falling out of windows. 
7. Use corner and edge bumpers to help prevent injuries from falls against the sharp edges of 
furniture and fireplace hearths. Be sure to look for bumpers that stay securely attached. 
8. Use receptacle or outlet covers and plates to help prevent electrical shocks and possible 
electrocution. Be sure the outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children and are large 
enough so that children cannot choke on them if they do manage to remove them. 
9. Use a carbon monoxide (CO) detector outside bedrooms to help prevent CO poisoning. 
Consumers should install CO detectors near sleeping areas in their homes. Households that 
should use CO detectors include those with gas or oil heat and those with attached garages. 
10. Cut window blind cords to help prevent children from strangling in blindcord 
loops. Window 
blind cord safety tassels on miniblinds and tension devices on vertical blinds and drapery cords 
can help prevent deaths and injuries from strangulation in the loops of the cords. Inner cord 
stops can help prevent strangulation in the inner cords of window blinds. 
However, the IAFCS's Ms. Driscoll states, "Cordless is best. Although not all families are able to 
replace all products, it is important that parents understand that any corded blind or window 
treatment can still be a hazard. Unfortunately, children are still becoming entrapped in 
dangerous blind cords despite advances in safety in recent years." 
For older miniblinds, cut the cord loop, remove the buckle, and put safety tassels on each cord. 
Be sure that older vertical blinds and drapery cords have tension or tiedown 
devices to hold the 
cords tight. When buying new miniblinds, vertical blinds and draperies, ask for safety features to 
prevent child strangulation. 
11. Use door stops and door holders to help prevent injuries to fingers and hands. Door stops 
and door holders on doors and door hinges can help prevent small fingers and hands from 
being pinched or crushed in doors and door hinges. 
Be sure any safety device for doors is easy to use and not likely to break into small parts, which 
could be a choking hazard for young children. 
12. Use a cell or cordless phone to make it easier to continuously watch young children, 
especially when they're in bathtubs, swimming pools, or other potentially dangerous areas. 
Cordless phones help you watch your child without leaving the vicinity to answer a phone call. 
Cordless phones are especially helpful when children are in or near water, whether it's in the 
bathtub, the swimming pool, or at the beach. 
In summary, there are a number of different safety devices that can be purchased to ensure the 
safety of children in the home. Homeowners can ask their Certified Master Inspector about 
these and other safety measures during their next inspection. Parents should be sure to do their 
own consumer research to find the most effective safety devices for their home that are 
for their children's protection, as well as affordable and compatible with their 
household habits and lifestyles. 
Crib Safety 
Baby cribs, especially handmedown 
and homemade models, can pose serious hazards to 
young children, including strangulation, entrapment, and overheating. Government 
manufacturing standards set in 1973 have greatly improved crib safety, yet defective cribs 
continue to be responsible for the highest child injury rates of any nursery item. In fact, 
approximately 50 infants each year are killed and another 9,000 are injured in cribrelated 
accidents in the U.S. To prevent an avoidable tragedy, parents should check their child’s crib to 
ensure against the following defects: 
Screws, bolts and hardware should not be missing, broken or loose. 
Slats cannot be more than 23/
8 inches apart, which is about the width of a soda can, and none 
of them should be loose or broken. Older cribs are especially prone to this defect. 
The corner posts cannot extend more than 1/16inch 
above the headboard and footboard. 
The mattress must be firm, and it should fit snugly inside the crib so that it does not easily 
release from the posts. This prevents the baby from getting stuck between the mattress and the 
Mobiles are for looking at, not touching. Their parts present a choking hazard and can cause the 
baby to become entangled. Make sure your baby cannot reach the mobile, and when he is old 
enough to crawl, the mobile should be removed from the crib. While newer mobiles are 
designed so that they cannot be reached, the risks still exist for older mobiles, homemade 
mobiles, and mobiles not specifically designed for cribs. 
Crib Recalls 
Cribs that were manufactured between 2000 and 2009 may be included in a voluntary recall 
issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in June 2010. Seven firms 
will provide consumers with free repair kits to remedy more than 2 million defective cribs, and 
they advise consumers not to attempt to fix these cribs using homemade remedies. Consumers 
should contact manufacturers directly to learn the appropriate remedy. These manufacturers are 
listed below, along with the number of cribs they recalled: 
40,000 to 50,000 Child CraftTM brand (now Foundations Worldwide, Inc.) stationaryside 
and an unknown number of dropside 
In summary, parents should ensure a safe sleeping environment for their young children by 
learning about defective conditions commonly found with cribs. 
Check the crib’s overall condition. Look for any sharp points or edges (such as those on 
protruding rivets, nuts, bolts and knobs), and any wood surfaces that have splits, splinters or 
Lead paint was outlawed in the United States in 1978, so painted cribs made before this year 
should be tested for lead, or avoided altogether. 
There should be no decorative cutouts in the headboard or footboard in which the baby's head 
or limbs could get trapped. 
Decorative knobs and corner posts should not be higher than 1/16inch 
so that a baby's clothing 
cannot catch on them. 
The baby should sleep in a sleeper, as opposed to a blanket. Soft bedding and blankets are 
suffocation hazards. They may also cause the baby to overheat, so it’s best to remove all 
pillows, comforters and quilts from the crib. 
If the crib has ribbons or bows, make sure they are tightly fastened, and no longer than 8 
750,000 Jenny Lind dropside 
cribs distributed by Evenflo, Inc.; 
747,000 Delta dropside 
cribs. Delta is also urging parents to check all fixed and dropside 
that use wooden stabilizer bars to support the mattress. The company says that the bars can be 
inadvertently installed upsidedown, 
causing the mattress platform to collapse; 
306,000 Bonavita, Babi Italia, and ISSI dropside 
cribs manufactured by LaJobi, Inc.; 
130,000 Jardine dropside 
cribs imported and sold by ToysRUs®; 
156,000 Million Dollar Baby dropside 
50,000 Simmons® dropside 
cribs; and 
Furniture and TV TipOver 
"A TV can be a child’s best friend, but it also can be a parent’s worst enemy,” says the mother of 
a 3yearold 
who was crushed by a television, according to the Consumer Product Safety 
Commission (CPSC). The watchdog organization recently published an 18year 
study on the 
dangers of furniture tipovers, 
including startling findings that should be heeded by parents. 
Here are some facts and figures from the CPSC study: 
In 2006, Pier 1 Imports® announced the recall 4,300 TV stands after one of them was involved 
in the accidental death of a child in Canada. 
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has established standards for 
manufacturers that stipulate that dressers, chests of drawers, and armoires should be able to 
remain upright when any doors or all drawers are open twothirds 
of the way, or when one 
drawer or door is opened and 50 pounds of weight are applied to the front, simulating a climbing 
child. In addition, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) requires units to be able to remain upright 
when placed on a 10degree 
angle with 70 pounds on top to simulate the weight of a television. 
The ASTM and UL standards are voluntary, however, and many manufacturers cut corners to 
save money. And, despite efforts by the CPSC to enforce these standards, substandard 
furniture is still regularly sold at retail stores. 
From 1990 to 2007, an average of nearly 15,000 children under 18 visited emergency rooms 
each year for injuries received from furniture tipovers. 
The number shows a 40% increase in 
injury reports over the duration of the study, hinting that the problem is growing worse. About 
300 fatalities were reported. 
Most injuries happened to children 6 and under, and resulted from televisions tipping over. 
The most severe injuries were head injuries and suffocation resulting from entrapment. 
More than 25% of the injuries occurred when children pulled over or climbed on furniture. 
Most of the injured children were males under 7 who suffered blows to the head. 
The newer flatscreen 
TVs are not as frontheavy 
as the older, traditional TV sets, which means 
they may be less likely to tip over. Experts warn, however, that flatscreen 
TVs are still heavy to 
children, and they often have sharp, dangerous edges. 
Parents can minimize the risks posed to their children from furniture tipovers 
by practicing the 
following strategies: 
Read the owners’ manuals and manufacturers’ instructions for your TV and furniture to learn 
about additional tips and hazards regarding their proper assembly and placement. 
In summary, TVs and furniture can easily tip over and crush a small child if safety practices are 
not followed by parents. 
brackets are metal devices designed to prevent freestanding ranges from tipping. They 
are normally attached to a rear leg of the range or screwed into the wall behind the range, and 
are included in all installation kits. A unit that is not equipped with these devices may tip over if 
enough weight is applied to its open door, such as that from a large Thanksgiving turkey, or 
even a small child. A falling range can crush, scald, or burn anyone caught beneath. 
Bracket Inspection 
Homeowners can confirm the presence of antitip 
brackets through the following methods: 
Supervise young children at all times. 
Place televisions low to the floor and near the very back of their stands. 
Strap televisions and furniture to the wall with heavy safety straps or Lbrackets. 
Many of these 
devices do not require that any holes be drilled into furniture, and they can secure items up to 
100 pounds. 
Heavy items, such as televisions, should be placed far back on a dresser rather than at the front 
edge, which would shift the center of gravity forward and make the whole assembly more likely 
to tip over. Ideally, the center of gravity for furniture should be as low as possible, with the 
furniture placed back against a wall. 
Only purchase furniture that has a solid base, wide legs, and otherwise feels stable. 
Install drawer stops that prevent drawers from opening to their full extent, as a full extension can 
cause a dangerous forwardshift 
in the center of gravity. 
Keep heavier items on lower shelves and in lower drawers. 
Never place items that may be attractive to children, such as toys, candy, or a remote control, 
on the top of a TV or piece of furniture that poses a tipover 
Do not place heavy televisions on dressers or shelving units that were not designed to support 
such weight. 
Place electrical cords out of the reach of children, and teach kids not to play with them. A cord 
can be used to inadvertently pull a TV, and perhaps its supporting shelf, onto a child. 
Homeowners can firmly grip the upperrear 
section of the range and tip the unit. If equipped with 
an antitip 
bracket, the unit will not tip more than several inches before coming to a halt. The 
range should be turned off, and all items should be removed from the stovetop before this action 
is performed. It is usually easier to detect a bracket by tipping the range than through a visual 
search. This test can be performed on all models and it can confirm the functionality of a 
If no antitip 
bracket is detected, homeowners should have them installed. They can contact the 
dealer or builder who installed their range and request that they install a bracket. If homeowners 
wish to install a bracket themselves, the part can be purchased at most hardware stores or 
ordered from a manufacturer. General Electric will send their customers an antitip 
bracket for 
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 143 incidents 
caused by range tipovers 
from 1980 to 2006. Of the 33 incidents that resulted in death, most of 
those victims were children. A small child may stand on an open range door in order to see what 
is cooking on the stovetop and accidentally cause the entire unit to fall on top of him, along with 
whatever hot items may have been cooking on the stovetop. The elderly, too, may be injured 
while using the range for support while cleaning. Homeowners should never leave the oven 
door open while the oven is unattended. 
In response to this danger, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the 
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) created standards in 1991 that require all ranges manufactured 
after that year to be capable of remaining stable while supporting 250 pounds of weight on their 
open doors. Manufacturers' instructions, too, require that antitip 
brackets provided be installed. 
Despite these warnings, retail giant Sears estimated in 1999 that a mere 5% of the gas and 
electric units they sold were ever equipped with antitip 
brackets. As a result of Sears’ failure to 
comply with safety regulations, they were sued and subsequently required to secure ranges in 
nearly 4 million homes, a measure that has been speculated to have cost the company as much 
as $500 million. 
In summary, ranges are susceptible to tipping and causing grave injury, especially to children, if 
they are not secured with antitip 
It may be possible to see a wallmounted 
bracket by looking over the rear of the range. Floormounted 
brackets are often hidden, although in some models with removable drawers, such as 
electric ranges made by General Electric, the drawers can be removed and a flashlight 
can be used to search for the bracket. Homeowners should beware that a visual confirmation 
does not guarantee that the bracket has been properly installed. 
Window Falls 
Every year, roughly 2.5 million children in the United States are treated for fallrelated 
Of these, falls from windows tend to be the most serious and fatal, especially among male 
toddlers. Older children are more likely to be seriously injured by window falls as summer 
approaches and they spend more time around the home. This problem is heightened by the fact 
that windows are left open for ventilation more often during the summer months than the rest of 
the year. 
Tips for Homeowners: 
Windows that are low to the floor may be particularly easy for young children to operate. 
In summary, homeowners can protect their children from window falls by learning some basic 
facts about window safety. 
Safety Glass 
Safety glass is a stronger, safer version of ordinary glass. It is often used in locations where 
harm due to breakage is likely, such as in cars and low windows. 
It is found in the following two forms: 
When ventilation is not needed, windows should be closed and locked. 
Windows can be equipped with window guards to prevent children from falling out. In some 
jurisdictions, such as New York City, window guards are required in apartments where children 
reside. These devices are constructed of horizontal bars spaced close enough together so that 
a 5inch 
ball cannot pass through. Proper window guard placement can be determined by the 
local building code official or the local fire department. Window guards should include a quickrelease 
mechanism to allow for a rapid exit in case of an emergency, such as a fire. 
Furniture that children can climb, such as dressers, beds and toy chests, should be kept away 
from windows. 
Window screens are designed to keep insects outside of the house and should not be relied 
upon to keep children from falling out of windows. 
Shrubs, wood chips, grass and other soft materials may be strategically placed beneath 
windows in order to lessen the degree of injury sustained from falls. 
Children’s play areas should be kept away from open windows. 
If possible, ventilation should come from the upper sash of a doublehung 
window rather than 
the lower sash, which may be more accessible to a child. 
Laminated safety glass is commonly found in car windshields. It is produced by bonding a resin 
or a thin, transparent plastic film, known as PVB, between multiple sheets of ordinary glass. 
When shattered, this type of glass will adhere to the plastic sheet and be held in place. 
Tempered safety glass fractures parallel to its edge rather than perpendicular, and when it 
shatters, it breaks into small, rounded, generally safe pieces. It is created by heating glass to a 
high temperature and then rapidly cooling it to produce compression stress fractures on the 
surface, while retaining tension in the center. The glass is several times stronger as a result of 
the process, and it can withstand significantly higher temperatures. Tempered safety glass is 
commonly found in rear and side car windows, computer monitors, and storm doors. Unlike 
laminated safety glass, it cannot be customcut 
once it is formed. 
Where in a home might you find it? 
Laminated glass may sometimes be found in shower enclosures, but it’s generally uncommon in 
homes. Tempered glass appears more often and can be found in storm doors, skylights, sliding 
glass doors, and unsafe locations. Safety glass should be found in locations considered to be, 
according to the 2006 version of the International Residential Code (IRC), “subject to human 
impact.” It describes these locations, as well as their exceptions, in “R308.4 – Hazardous 
locations” under “Section R308 – Glazing” as the following: 
R308.4: The Following Shall Be Considered Specific Hazardous Locations for the Purposes of 
1. Glazing in swinging doors except jalousies. 2. Glazing in fixed and sliding panels of sliding 
door assemblies, and panels in sliding and bifold 
closet door assemblies. 3. Glazing in storm doors. 4. Glazing in all unframed swinging 
doors. 5. Glazing in doors and enclosures for hot tubs, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, 
bathtubs, and 
showers. Glazing in any part of a building wall enclosing these compartments where the bottom 
exposed edge of the glazing is less than 60 inches measured vertically above any standing or 
walking surface. 6. Glazing in an individual fixed or operable panel adjacent to a door where the 
nearest vertical 
edge is within a 24inch 
arc of the door in a closed position and whose bottom edge is less than 
60 inches above the floor or walking surface. 7. Glazing in an individual fixed or operable panel, 
other than those locations described in Items 5 
and 6 above, that meets all of the following conditions: 7.1. Exposed area of an individual pane 
larger than 9 square feet. 7.2. Bottom edge less than 18 inches above the floor. 7.3. Top edge 
more than 36 inches above the floor. 7.4. One or more walking surfaces within 36 inches 
horizontally of the glazing. 8. All glazing in railings regardless of an area or height above a 
walking surface. Included are 
structural baluster panels and nonstructural infill panels. 9. Glazing in walls and fences 
enclosing indoor and outdoor swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas 
where the bottom edge of the glazing is less than 60 inches above a walking surface and within 
60 inches horizontally of the water’s edge. This shall apply to single glazing and all panes in 
multiple glazing. 
Laminated safety glass is effective in blocking most ultraviolet radiation, as well as sound, and 
it’s also used in cutting boards, thermometers, and bulletresistant 
bank windows. 
10. Glazing adjacent to stairways, landings and ramps within 36 inches horizontally of a walking 
surface when the exposed surface of the glass is less than 60 inches above the plane of the 
adjacent walking surface. 11. Glazing adjacent to stairways within 60 inches horizontally of the 
bottom tread of a stairway in 
any direction when the exposed surface of the glass is less than 60 inches above the nose of 
the tread. 
Exception: The following products, materials and uses are exempt from the above hazardous 
1. Openings in doors through which a 3inch 
sphere is unable to pass. 2. Glazing in Section 
R308.4, Items 1, 6, or 7, in decorative glass. 3. Glazing in Section R308.4, Item 6, when there is 
an intervening wall or other permanent barrier 
between the door and the glazing. 4. Glazing in Section R308.4, Item 6, in walls 
perpendicular to the plane of the door in a closed 
position, other than the wall toward which the door swings when opened, or where access 
through the door is to a closet or storage area 3 feet or less in depth. Glazing in these 
applications shall comply with Section R308.4, Item 7. 5. Glazing in Section R308.4, Items 7 
and 10, when a protective bar is installed on the accessible 
side(s) of the glazing 36 inches ± 2 inches above the floor. The bar shall be capable of 
withstanding a horizontal load of 50 pounds per linear foot without contacting the glass and be a 
minimum of 11/
2 inches in height. 6. Outboard panes in insulating glass units and other 
multiple glazed panels in Section R308.4, Item 
7, when the bottom edge of the glass is 25 feet or more above grade, a roof, walking surface, or 
other horizontal surfaces within 45 degrees of a horizontal surface adjacent to the glass exterior. 
7. Louvered windows and jalousies complying with the requirements of Section R308.2. 8. 
Mirrors and other glass panels mounted or hung on a surface that provides a continuous 
support. 9. Safety glazing in Section R308.4, Items 10 and 11, is not required where: 
9.1. the side of a stairway, landing or ramp has a guardrail or handrail, including balusters or infill 
panels, complying with the provisions of the handrail and guardrail requirements; and 9.2. 
the plane of the glass is more than 18 inches from the railing; or 9.3. when a solid wall or panel 
extends from the plane of the adjacent walking surface to 34 inches to 36 inches above the floor 
and the construction at the top of that wall or panel is capable of withstanding the same 
horizontal load as the protective bar. 10. Glass block panels complying with Section R610. 
How do you identify safety glass? 
If safety glass is not specifically labeled as such, there are often signs that aid in its 
identification. Unfortunately, it may be impossible to identify ordinary glass with certainty without 
breaking it. 
According to the IRC, tempered glass must contain an identifying label. It states that a label 
must be “acidetched, 
sandblasted, ceramicfired, 
embossed, or be of a type 
which, once applied, cannot be removed without being destroyed.” Tempered spandrel glass, 
an opaque glass found in commercial curtain walls, is exempt from this rule because an etched 
label can cause the entire panel to fracture. 
Of multipane assemblies containing safety glass, the IRC states the following: 
R308.1.1 Identification of multipane assemblies. Multipane assemblies having individual panes 
not exceeding 1 square foot in exposed area shall have at least one pane in the assembly 
identified in accordance with Section R308.1. All other panes in the assembly shall be labeled 
Section R308.1 details identification as follows: 
R308.1 Identification. Except as indicated in Section R308.1.1, each pane of glazing installed in 
hazardous locations as defined in Section R308.4 shall be provided with a manufacturer's or 
installer’s label designating the type and thickness of glass and the safety glazing standard with 
which it complies, which is visible in the final installation. The label shall be acidetched, 
sandblasted, ceramicfired, 
or shall be of a type which, once applied, cannot 
be removed without being destroyed. 
laws similarly require a permanent label on most or all safety glass. In the UK, 
for instance, tempered glass must include a “T,” and laminated glass must include an “L.” New 
Zealand requires, according to Clause 303.7 of NZS 4223:Part3:1999, that all safety glass have 
a label at the bottom that includes the following information: 
(a) the name and registered trademark or code of the manufacturer or supplier; (b) the type of 
safety glazing material. This may be in the form of a code, such as “T” for toughened 
glass, or “L” for laminated glass, as indicated by the relevant test Standard (refer to AS/NZS 
2208); (c) the Standard to which the safety glazing material has been tested, e.g. AS/NZS 2208; 
(d) if applicable, the classification relating to impact test behaviour, i.e., A for Grade A, B for 
Grade B, or 
C for Grade C. 
Laminated safety glass is often labeled, although codes do not always require it to be. An easy 
way to tell if unlabeled glass is laminated is by examining the reflection of your hand or some 
other object. As there are two pieces of glass, you should see two different images, but you 
must be careful not to confuse them with the inner and outer surfaces of a single sheet of 
ordinary glass. Laminated glass is also slightly thicker than ordinary glass, although this 
difference is difficult to discern without the aid of very precise measuring instruments. 
Tempered glass can also be identified through polarized glasses when viewed from an angle. 
Black lines, a result of the heating and cooling process, should appear as your angle from the 
glass surface increases and you approach the glass’s side. 
When uncertain, homeowners should always assume that glass is not safety glass. 
Windows and Stairs 
The number one hazard for children is falls, which are the leading cause of nonfatal 
injuries for 
children in the U.S. About 8,000 youngsters wind up in emergency rooms every day for injuries 
related to falling, adding up to almost 2.8 million per year. With those statistics in mind, it is 
worth looking at what can be done to prevent such injuries in the home. 
In trying to fathom how so many children can be injured on a daily basis from something as 
simple as slipping and falling, we need to consider an important factor, which is height. 
Oftentimes, when observing small children at play, we are amazed at their dexterity and ability 
to take what looks like a fairly serious tumble and hop right back up, unfazed. Likewise, a slip or 
fall for most adults, more often than not, leads to little more than a poorly chosen expletive being 
uttered. However, imagine a small child falling a distance equivalent to the average height of an 
adult, and we begin to see where the danger lies. With this to consider, let’s take a closer look 
at two of the most important areas to childproof in a home: windows and staircases. 
The first thing that probably comes to mind when examining child safety in relation to stairways 
and staircases is a safety gate, and with good reason: falling down stairs can be a serious 
hazard for an infant or toddler who is just learning to navigate his or her surroundings. When 
properly installed, highquality 
safety gates can help eliminate this possibility. 
Safety Gates 
A safety gate is a gate that is temporarily installed in a door or stairway. It allows adults to 
unlock and pass, but small children will be unable to open it. There are two basic types of gates 
which differ in the way they are installed. The first type is a pressuremounted 
gate. These 
safety gates are fixed in place by pressure against walls or a doorway. They can be used in 
doorways between rooms, such as for keeping crawling babies out of a kitchen during cooking, 
but they are not suitable for keeping kids out of other areas, such as the top of a stairway, 
where falling could be a risk. 
The other type of safety gate, which is recommended specifically for stairways, is 
These gates mount solidly in place with screws but are still easily 
removable for times when they are unnecessary. A hardwaremounted 
safety gate will prevent 
small children from entering stairways where accidents could occur. 
When choosing a safety gate, you can refer to established ASTM standards for these products, 
and some manufacturers also participate in a certification program administered by the Juvenile 
Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). Any gate you choose should meet the ASTM 
standards, which will ensure that the gate itself poses no hazard to the child. Products that 
comply with these standards have a sticker on the packaging or on the unit itself. 
For parents of children who have outgrown the need for safety gates but are still small and 
curious, especially those prone to climbing on things, baluster spacing on the handrail becomes 
a concern. A stairway with four or more risers should have a continuous handrail not lower than 
34 inches or taller than 38 inches on at least one side, with balustrades not more than 4 inches 
apart from each other. If there are spaces between vertical rails or risers that will allow an object 
larger than 4 inches to pass between them, this should be considered a safety hazard to a child 
who may try to climb on the railing and may get stuck between the balusters or spaces between 
the railing and risers. 
If the dangers associated with falling are compounded by the height of the fall, then windows 
can present an even greater concern than stairways. It is estimated that more than 4,000 
children are treated every year in emergency rooms for injuries sustained by falling from 
windows. There have been at least 120 such deaths reported since 1990. Risk of injury from 
accidents in the home can be minimized by addressing several common issues. 
The first and simplest thing to do is to ensure that there is no furniture situated in areas that 
would make it easy for a child to reach and open or close a window. Any furniture a child could 
potentially climb on should be moved away from windows. 
Latches, Stops and Guards 
As children begin to grow to heights where they may be able to access windows from a standing 
position, it is important to install secure, childproof 
latches. There are many types of window 
latches that, similar to safety gates, will allow an adult to easily open and close the windows, but 
will prevent kids from doing the same. 
Also available are window stops, which will not allow the window to be opened wider than a predetermined 
width. The recommended opening, similar to balustrade spacing, should not exceed 
4 inches. This eliminates the possibility of a child or one of his limbs to pass through. These 
stops are easily removable by an adult whenever necessary. 
An additional option to consider is a window guard. A window guard can be vertical or 
horizontal. It attaches to a frame and can be removed by an adult, but will deter a child. Guards 
have some form of bars or beams across them, which should be no more than 4 inches apart. 
Window guards maintain the functionality of the window while ensuring a child’s safety when the 
window is open. However, even with a guard installed, kids should not be allowed to play 
around windows, whether they are open or 
closed. Try to open windows only from the top, if possible. And never rely on window screens to 
keep a child from falling through the window, as that is not the function they are designed for. 
With some foresight, a few clever and fairly inexpensive products, and proper adherence to 
building codes, the risk of injury from falling can be successfully minimized. Your Certified 
Master Inspector® can assess the safety issues in your home and advise you on the most 
effective childproofing measures to keep your family safe. 
Garage Doors and Openers 
Garage doors are large, springsupported 
doors. Garage door openers control the opening and 
closing of garage doors, either through a wallmounted 
switch or a radio transmitter. Due to the 
strain that garage door components and openers regularly endure, they may become defective 
over time and need to be fixed or replaced. Defective components may create safety hazards as 
well as functional deficiencies to the garage door assembly. 
The following facts demonstrate the dangers posed by garage doors: 
Garage doors are typically among the heaviest moving objects in the home and are held under 
high tension. 
Injuries caused by garage doors account for approximately 20,000 emergency room visits 
annually, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 
The majority of the injuries caused by garage doors are the result of pinched fingers, although 
severe injuries and deaths due to entrapment occur as well. Sixty children have been killed 
since 1982 as a result of garage doors that did not automatically reverse upon contact. 
Methods for testing the automatic reverse system: 
1. This safety feature can be tested by grasping the base of the garage door as it closes and 
applying upward resistance. Homeowners should use caution while performing this test 
because they may accidentally damage its components if the door does not reverse course. 
2. Some sources recommend placing a 2x4 piece of wood on the ground beneath the door, 
although there have been instances where this testing method has damaged the door or door 
opener components. 
3. Using a supplemental automaticreverse 
system. Garage doors manufactured in the U.S. 
1992 must be equipped with photoelectric sensors or a door edge sensor, such as the following: 
a. Photoelectric 
eyes (also known as photoelectric 
sensors) are located at the base of 
each side of the garage door and emit and detect beams of light. If this beam is broken, it will 
cause the door to immediately reverse direction and open. For safety reasons, photo sensors 
must be installed a maximum of 6 inches above the standing surface. 
b. A door edge sensor is a pressuresensitive 
strip installed at the base of the garage door. If it 
senses pressure from an object while the door is closing, it will cause the door to reverse. Door 
edge sensors are not as common in garage door systems as photoelectric 
Safety Advice for Homeowners: 
The automatic reversal system may need to be adjusted for cold temperatures, since the 
flexibility of the springs is affected by temperature. This adjustment can be made from a dial on 
the garage door opener, which should be changed only by a trained garage door technician. 
In summary, garage doors and their openers can be hazardous if certain components are 
missing or defective, or if people fail to use caution while around them during operation. 
Homeowners should not attempt to adjust or repair springs themselves. The springs are held 
under extremely high tension and can snap suddenly and forcefully, causing serious or fatal 
No one should stand or walk beneath a garage door while it is in motion. Adults should set an 
example for children and teach them about garage door safety. Children should not be 
permitted to operate the garage door opener push button and should be warned against 
touching any of the door’s moving parts. 
Fingers and hands should be kept away from pulleys, hinges, springs, and the intersecting 
points between door panels. Closing doors can very easily crush body parts that get between 
Trampoline Safety 
While healthpromoting 
and fun, trampolines can also be dangerous when they're misused or if 
they're poorly designed. 
Facts and Figures 
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that home trampolines not be used at all. 
Parents may consider other forms of activity for their children to enjoy, or visit a commercial 
trampoline park, whose standards for construction must follow strict safety guidelines. 
Trampoline users should practice the following safety tips in order to avoid injury: 
Leave the gymnastics to the professionals. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission 
cautions against performing somersaults on trampolines because landing on the head or neck 
can cause an injury resulting in paralysis. The user should never attempt maneuvers beyond 
their capability or training. 
In addition to safe behavior, trampolines can be arranged to limit the chance of injury 
using these guidelines: 
The first modern trampoline was constructed in 1936 by University of Iowa gymnasts George 
Nissen and Larry Griswold. Trampolinelike 
devices have been in use for centuries, however, 
such as walrus skins used by the Inuit to toss each other into the air. 
According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), an average of 246,875 
trampoline injuries that require medical treatment occur annually in the U.S. Of this total, the 
majority 186,405 
among children ages 14 and younger. The most common injuries 
resulting in hospitalization include fractures to the upper and lower extremities. Catastrophic 
spine injuries are rare, but head and neck injuries constitute a large portion of the more serious 
reported injuries. 
Most reported injuries and deaths are caused by children colliding with each other, landing 
improperly while jumping or doing stunts, falling off the trampoline, or falling on the trampoline 
springs or frame. 
Allow only one person on the trampoline at a time. 
Use a trampoline that is located in a welllit 
Children should never be allowed to jump onto the trampoline from higher objects, such as a 
tree or roof. 
Always supervise children who use the trampoline, and never allow a child under the age of 6 to 
use a fullsize 
Install a surrounding net. These nets have been shown to reduce the number of injuries from 
falls off the trampoline, although they are no substitute for supervision, and they do not protect 
against injuries sustained on the trampoline, according to the Foundation for Spinal Cord Injury 
Safety pads should cover all portions of the steel frame, hooks and springs. 
Never place the trampoline on concrete or asphalt. It’s wise to apply wood chips or some other 
soft surface to the surroundings beneath it. 
Do not attach a ladder to the trampoline because it can provide unsupervised access for small 
Trampolines and Homeowners Insurance 
Trampolines are considered by insurance companies to be an "attractive nuisance" something 
that invites trespassers – and, as such, insurers don't automatically provide coverage for them 
in their homeowners policies. No matter what signs are posted or gates erected, there is always 
a possibility that a neighborhood child will trespass, get injured on the trampoline, and sue you 
in court. 
Mary Kaderbek of Allstate® Insurance reminds homeowners that "owning a trampoline can 
affect your homeowners insurance," so they should check their policies or give their agents a 
call before purchasing one. 
Most insurers handle trampolines in one of three ways: 
Trampoline Exclusion: The most restrictive clause, this means that trampolines are excluded 
from your homeowners coverage, so any damage or injury caused by anyone (invited or not) 
who uses a trampoline on the insured property is not covered. Furthermore, if a homeowner 
purchases a trampoline after purchasing the policy, the policy may not be automatically 
In summary, trampolines can cause bodily harm and 
financial hardship if 
not used 
responsibly. And, as with any major purchase for the home, homeowners should check with 
their insurance carrier to find out what kind of liability they may face by setting up a trampoline in 
their yard. 
Never install a trampoline near structures, power lines, clotheslines, trees, or anything else that 
may contact a bouncing child. 
The trampoline should be regularly inspected for tears, rust, and detachments. 
Safety harnesses and spotting belts, when appropriately used, may offer additional protection 
for athletes practicing more challenging skills on the trampoline. 
Trampolines that are set over pits so that the mat is at ground level may be safer because the 
user will not fall as far if they miss the pad. 
No Exclusions: This means that there are no restrictions on owning or using a trampoline on the 
covered property. While it may be the most desirable coverage, it may not be a standard 
offering by your insurer. 
Coverage with Safety Precautions: This type of coverage is for trampolines that have safety 
features installed, such as padded coverings for springs, a netting enclosure, a locking yard 
gate, etc. 
Tree Swings 
A tree swing (or a rope swing or tire swing) is composed of a single rope or chain attached to a 
high tree branch, along with a seat, which is typically a wooden plank or tire. For many 
homeowners, tree swings represent fond childhood memories, but this type of DIY play 
equipment is too often poorly constructed by nonprofessional 
builders for their children who can 
be unaware of the potential dangers. 
Consider some recent tragedies. In 2010, a British girl enjoying her tree swing was killed when 
she was pinned to the ground by the falling silver birch, which is a tree species considered 
unsuitable for tree swings. That same year, an unsupervised boy accidentally hanged himself 
when he became tangled in the tree swing’s rope. Children are also killed or injured when ropes 
snap or hanger brackets dislodge. An article in the journal Pediatrics stated that “recreational, 
tree swing injuries among children resulted in significant morbidity, regardless of the 
height of the fall. This activity carries a substantial risk for serious injury.” 
To prevent accidents, homeowners can learn about what goes into a properly installed tree 
swing, and how to inspect them for potential hazards. 
Tree Inspection 
A sturdy tree is a must for a safe tree swing, but this consideration may be overlooked on 
properties that lack a variety of healthy trees from which to choose. Also, homeowners should 
remember that while trees appear stationary, they are actually alive and constantly, albeit 
slowly, growing and changing shape. As such, branches will “absorb” hanger brackets, and 
overhead branches will become brittle, gradually transforming what was once a properly 
installed tree swing into one that is no longer safe to use. 
Check for the following indications that the tree will pose dangers to the user: 
Inappropriate tree choice. According to London Play, an organization that promotes outdoor 
exercise for children, beech, oak, sycamore and Norway maple are suitable for rope swings, 
while pine, poplar, spruce, willow and silver birch should be avoided. Cherry, cedar and ash can 
be used only when their limbs are large and the tree is in good condition. 
The branch is too thin. The branch’s minimum thickness depends on the tree species, but, in 
general, it should be at least 8 inches thick. 
Bulges, cracks, or unusual swelling. These tree defects often lead to limb failure. If possible, the 
candidate limb should be inspected from above as well as from the ground. 
Decay, fungus, or signs of hollowing within the tree. Dead wood is often dry and brittle and 
cannot bend in the wind under the stresses of the weight of a swinging child. Strike the tree at 
different points with a hammer to test for the sound of hollowing. 

Power Lines 
Despite what we know about power line dangers for residential homes and commercial 
structures, homeowners sometimes build treehouses near power lines, perhaps due to space 
constraints. This situation increases the likelihood that children will be electrocuted or burned in 
a tragic treehouse fire, as it becomes quite easy for them to climb onto the power lines or 
deliberately touch them with sticks or poles. The wind may also cause the branches to contact 
the power lines. Some utility companies instruct their workers to flag treehouses that are 
dangerously close to power lines. Homeowners are then notified and, depending on the 
company, the tree may be either pruned or removed. 
In addition to power lines, treehouses should not be built near or over a cliff, a busy road, or 
dangerous water features. 
The Forestry Commission of England offers the following treehouse safety guidelines (their 
code is in italics): 
Is there a railing? According to The Black and Decker Complete Guide: Build Your Kids a 
Treehouse, railings should be at lest 36 inches tall with vertical balusters no more than 4 inches 
apart. On treehouses designed for small children, rope or cable should not be used for the 
balusters. Horizontal balusters are dangerous because children use them to climb. 
Advice for Homeowners 
Fall height. The fall height from the treehouse should not be greater than 2 meters unless the 
structure has good protection against falls, such as railings or other edge protection. 
Fall zone. The fall zone around the treehouse should be free of any pointed stumps, sharp or 
large rocks, or dangerous waste, such as sharp metal. Normal vegetation cover, saplings and 
bushes are not a problem. Wood chips make a good groundcover beneath the treehouse. 
Access. Access to the treehouse needs to be checked. If a rope or rope ladder is provided, then 
capacity should be checked by giving the rope a ‘good pull’ with feet firmly on 
the ground. Wooden ladders are better than rope ladders, which are less stable and pose a 
strangulation risk. 
Structure. Structure should be checked to ensure that collapse is not likely. This should be done 
in a safe manner from outside the structure [while] wearing safety helmet. If ladders are used to 
access the structure, then working at height regulations should be followed. Also, inspect the 
tree, as well as neighboring trees, for evidence of weakness, fungus and decay. 
Snag hazards. Inspect for rough, splintered areas that can be sanded down, and for nails 
sticking out that may be replaced with screws. 
Inspect for loose and rotten boards. 
Check your homeowners insurance policy or give your agent a call to find out what kind of 
liability you may face by building a treehouse on your property. It may range from full coverage 
to no coverage at all, including having your policy's renewal revoked if you build one. 
Restrict access to the treehouse, especially if you live in a neighborhood with a lot of children. 
You may be held responsible if a trespassing child is injured in your treehouse. 
Treehouses allow children privacy and freedom, which can be healthy, but keep an eye out for 
antisocial activities, such as drug use. 
Post a list of safety rules for the children to learn, and make sure they follow them. 
In summary, treehouses pose some unique risks that can be mitigated with regular inspection 
and common sense. 
Ladders and Stairways 
Ladder Safety 
A ladder is a structure designed for climbing that consists of two long sidepieces 
joined at 
uniform intervals by rungs or steps. It's important to use the right tool for the job, and that 
includes ladders, which come in different types and sizes for different applications. It's also 
important to exercise extreme caution while using a ladder, as a fall from a ladder can lead to 
serious injury and even death. 
Some common causes of ladder injuries include: 
while climbing or descending. 
Statistics Concerning Ladder Dangers 
If the treehouse borders a neighbor’s house, it may cause a nuisance. Children might need to 
keep their voices down and be respectful. 
Is the treehouse not on your property? Build treehouses on public land at your own risk, as the 
project may be illegal. Also, the treehouse and children's activity may disrupt the enjoyment of 
others, or negatively impact nature conservation areas. 
Never allow children in the treehouse during inclement weather, especially if you hear thunder. 
Construct a pulleyandbucket 
system for hauling items up to reduce the chance of fall or injury 
that can occur when climbing while carrying items. 
Restrict the number of children allowed in the treehouse at one time. 
mounting or dismounting the ladder improperly; 
losing one's balance; 
failing to set up the ladder properly; 
while on the ladder; and 
According to the World Health Organization, the United States leads the world in ladder deaths. 
Each year, there are more than 164,000 emergency roomtreated 
injuries and 300 deaths in the 
U.S. that are caused by falls from ladders. 
Most ladder deaths are from falls of 10 feet or less. 
Falls from ladders are the leading cause of deaths on construction sites. 
Over the past decade, the number of people who have died from falls from ladders has tripled. 
Falls from ladders are the leading cause of ladderrelated 
injuries, followed by using a ladder 
improperly, using a faulty or defective ladder, and simple carelessness. 
Some basic safety tips will help prevent injuries. And safety begins with understanding the types 
of ladders available and their common uses. 
Ladder Types 
According to the American Ladder Institute, there are seven common types of ladders: 
1. a step ladder, which is a selfsupporting 
that is not adjustable in length, with a hinged design for ease of storage; 2. a single ladder, 
which is a nonselfsupporting 
ladder that is not adjustable in length, consisting of one section. This type of ladder is rarely 
used anymore because extension ladders are used instead; 3. an extension ladder, which is a 
ladder that is adjustable in length. It consists of two or more sections that 
travel in guides or brackets arranged so as to permit length adjustment; 4. an articulated ladder, 
which has one or more pairs of locking articulated joints, allowing the ladder to be set up in 
several different configurations. It may be used as a step ladder or single ladder; 5. a tripod 
ladder, which has one leg opposite the 
rungs and is handy for applications where more support is desired than that provided by an 
extension ladder but where space to set up the ladder may be limited; 6. a trestle ladder, which 
is a combination of a step ladder with a single extension ladder that can 
be raised through the top; and 7. a telescoping ladder, which uses a pin system to 
"telescope" into variable lengths. As it is more 
portable than the extension ladder, it is often preferred over that design for indoor applications. 
Homeowners should be aware that accidents have happened due to failure of the pins, which 
can be difficult to detect in advance. Some people refuse to use telescoping ladders for this 
Ladder levels attached to the bottom of the side rails can provide stability and support on 
uneven surfaces, but the use of these devices should be limited to people whose expertise and 
confidence in ladder use is advanced. For most users, placing the ladder on a flat, even surface 
is the safest method. 
If it's not possible to safely brace an extension ladder against a stable or level surface at the top, 
a straight ladder stabilizer can be used for this purpose. 
Safety Tips for Homeowners 
drop or throw a ladder, or allow it to fall, which can create a hazard for others, as well as 
damage the ladder. 
Before mounting a ladder, always check the following: 
leave a raised ladder unattended. Ladders that are not in use should be laid on the ground or 
put away; 
place a ladder in front of a door that is not locked, blocked or guarded; 
place a ladder on an unstable or uneven surface; 
use a ladder for any purpose other than the one for which it was designed. Many homeowners 
and even professionals sometimes use an extension ladder as a ramp between two points or as 
a shelf to hold materials and supplies, and what may seem convenient in a pinch may lead to an 
accident or injury; 
tie or fasten ladders together to provide longer sections, unless they are specifically designed 
for that purpose; 
use a ladder in windy conditions; 
use a ladder if you're not fully alert and physically able; 
skip any rungs while climbing or descending; 
bounce on any rungs; 
use a ladder that has been exposed to fire or strong chemicals, as these conditions may leave 
residual damage or corrosion, which cannot be detected during use; 
exceed the maximum load rating. The maximum load rating, which should be found on a highly 
visible label on the ladder, is the maximum intended load that the ladder is designed to carry. 
Duty ratings are Type lll, ll, l, lA and 1B, which correspond to maximum load capacities of 220, 
225, 250, 300 and 350 pounds, respectively. Homeowners should know the duty rating of the 
ladder they are using, as well as the combined weight of themselves and their tools; 
use a step ladder in the closed or partially closed position, or use it by leaning it against a wall; 
sit on any rung, including the top; 
climb past the fourth rung from the top on a leaning ladder, or the second rung from the top on a 
step ladder. Never use the top step; 
pull, lean, stretch, or make any sudden moves. Overreaching 
is the most common and 
dangerous form of ladder misuse; 
climb a ladder while holding tools or other items. Both hands are required for safe climbing and 
pull or push any items while ascending or descending. Always wait until you're at the top or 
bottom of your working point to hoist or lower items; 
step on the rear section of a step ladder or the underside of an extension ladder; 
paint a wooden ladder, as this can conceal cracks and other damage that would require 
repairing or replacing the ladder; or 
that the ladder, steps and rungs are free of oil, grease, wet paint, and other slipping hazards; 
that the feet work properly and have slipresistant 
pads. These pads become worn over time 
and may need to be replaced. On extension ladders, the rubber pads can be turned around to 
reveal metal spurs, which can be used to secure the ladder in soft surfaces, such as grass or 
that rung locks and spreader braces are working; 
that someone knows where you are. Accidents can and do happen in remote areas where cell 
phones are ineffective and no one is home. If you are injured under these conditions, no one will 
know you are hurt and need help. 
While on the ladder, always: 
that all moveable parts operate freely without binding or excessive play; 
that all bolts and rivets are secure; 
that ropes aren't frayed or excessively worn; 
that the ground under the ladder is level and firm. Large, flat, wooden boards braced under the 
ladder can level a ladder on uneven or soft ground. Also, some companies make leveling 
devices so that ladders can be used on uneven and hilly terrain; 
that the ladder's rungs, cleats or steps are parallel, level, and uniformly spaced when the ladder 
is in position for use. Rungs should be spaced between 10 and 14 inches apart; 
that the ladder is anchored. The base can be tied to a nearby sturdy object, such as a pole or a 
building. If no anchor is available, a stake can be driven into the ground. Homeowners should 
beware not to anchor their ladders to something that can impale them if they were to fall on it, 
such as a grounding rod. A 10inch 
nail, hammered so as to leave only an inch or two exposed, 
is usually safe and effective; 
that the area around the ladder is roped off or barricaded; 
for any cracks, bends, splits and corrosion; 
the location of nearby power lines. If setting up a ladder near them or other types of electrical 
equipment is unavoidable, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder rather than a metal ladder, which 
can conduct electricity and lead to a shock or electrocution. Do not allow your ladder to make 
contact with any overhead wires, regardless of the type or whether they're live, as it is not 
always possible to confirm their status; 
the distance of nonselfsupporting 
ladders from the structure. This type of ladder must lean 
against a wall or other support, so they should be positioned at such an angle that the horizontal 
distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is about onequarter 
or at a 4:1 angle of 
the working length of the ladder. A rough method to test this angle is by placing your toes at the 
base of the ladder and stretching your arm at shoulder height. Your hand should just touch the 
that the ladder has slipresistant 
that the ladder is the proper length for the job. Ladders should extend a minimum of 3 feet over 
the roofline or working surface; 
the locking devices. Step ladders must have a metal spreader or locking device to hold the front 
and back sections in an open position when in use; and 
face the ladder; 
wear securefitting 
footwear that’s free of mud and other substances that may cause you to slip; 
consider anchoring the top of the ladder with a bungee cord. Perhaps the most feared move is 
stepping back onto the ladder from the roof. You must step around the section of the ladder that 
extends above the roofline, placing lateral pressure on the rung as you make contact with the 
ladder. A bungee cord is a convenient tool that can be used to reduce any wavering that could 
otherwise result in a serious accident. Also, a bungee cord may prevent the ladder from being 
blown over in the wind while you’re on the roof; 
utilize at least three points of contact, because this minimizes the chances of slipping and falling 
from the ladder. At all times during ascent or descent, the climber must face the ladder and 
have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, in contact with the ladder cleats and/or 
side rails. In this way, the climber is unlikely to become unstable if one limb slips during the 
climb. It is important to note that the climber must not carry any objects in either hand that can 
interfere with a firm grip on the ladder. 
Always use proper mounting hardware on vehicles used to transport ladders, and follow 
precautionary measures if your ladder exceeds the length of your vehicle so that you don't 
cause an accident or violate any traffic codes. 
Attic PullDown 
Attic pulldown 
ladders, also called attic pulldown 
stairways, are collapsible ladders that are 
permanently attached to the attic floor. Occupants can use these ladders to access their attics 
without being required to carry a portable ladder. 
Common Defects 
Homeowners, not professional carpenters, usually install attic pulldown 
ladders. Evidence of 
this distinction can be observed in consistently shoddy and dangerous work that rarely meets 
safety standards. 
Some of the more common defective conditions include: 
be conscious of the ladder's location, especially while walking on the roof. In an emergency, the 
homeowner may need to leave the roof quickly. Ladders become much more dangerous when 
someone becomes covered in a swarm of stinging bees and must get down in a hurry, for 
use a fallarrest 
system for working at great heights or while performing complicated tasks; 
use the proper protective equipment for the job, such as a hardhat or eye protection; 
keep your body centered between the rails at all times. Do not lean too far to the side while 
working; and 
Cut bottom cord of the structural truss. Often, homeowners will cut through a structural member 
in the field while installing a pulldown 
ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. 
In sliding pulldown 
ladders, there is a potential for the ladder to slide down quickly without 
notice. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously. 
Relevant Codes 
The 2009 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) and the 2006 edition of the 
International Residential Code (IRC) offer guidelines regarding attic access, although not 
specifically pulldown 
ladders. Still, the information might be of some interest to homeowners. 
2009 IBC (Commercial Construction): 
1209.2 Attic Spaces. An opening not less than 20 inches by 30 inches shall be provided to any 
attic area having a clear height of over 30 inches. A 30inch 
minimum clear headroom in the 
attic space shall be provided at or above the access opening. 
2006 IRC (Residential Construction): 
R807.1 Attic Access. Buildings with combustible ceiling or roof construction shall have an attic 
access opening to attic areas that exceed 30 square feet and have a vertical height of 30 inches 
or more. The roughframed 
opening shall not be less than 22 inches by 30 inches, and shall be 
located in a hallway or readily accessible location. A 30inch 
minimum unobstructed headroom 
in the attic space shall be provided at some point above the access opening. 
Structural members should not be modified without an engineer’s approval. 
Fastened with improper nails or screws. Homeowners often use drywall or deck screws rather 
than the standard 16d penny nails or 1/4 x 3inch 
lag screws. Nails and screws that are intended 
for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and they may not support pulldown 
Fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number 
of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they probably do this for a good reason. 
Lack of insulation. Hatches in many houses (especially older ones) are not likely to be weatherstripped 
and/or insulated. An uninsulated attic hatch allows air from the attic to flow freely into 
the home, which may cause the heating or cooling system to run overtime. An attic hatch cover 
box can be installed to increase energy savings. 
Loose mounting bolts. This condition is more often caused by age rather than installation, 
although improper installation will hasten the loosening process. 
Attic pulldown 
ladders are cut too short. Stairs should reach the floor. 
Attic pulldown 
ladders are cut too long. This causes pressure at the folding hinge, which can 
cause breakage. 
Improper or missing fasteners. 
Compromised fire barrier when installed in the garage. 
Attic ladder frame is not properly secured to the ceiling opening. 
Closed ladder is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during 
roof work. 
Cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders. 
Tips for Homeowners: 
Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. Newer aluminum models are often 
lightweight, sturdy, and easy to install. 
In summary, attic pulldown 
ladders are prone to a number of defects, most of which are due to 
improper installation. 
Due to their inherent dangers, stairways and unsafe patterns of use are the cause of a 
surprising number of injuries. A careful assessment of the risks posed by stairways can prevent 
unnecessary injuries. 
Facts and Figures 
In addition to potential physical injury, falls can cause serious psychological and social 
consequences, affecting confidence, mobility, and general wellbeing, 
according to the same 
While residents may already be aware of stair abnormalities in their own home, their guests may 
not be prepared for irregular steps or inadequate headroom height, for instance. If you sell your 
home, prospective home buyers are better off hearing about such irregularities from you than 
learning through experience after they purchase your home. 
Do not allow children to enter the attic through an attic access. The lanyard attached to the attic 
stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the attic 
ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it. 
If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the attic. While properly installed stairways may safely 
support an adult man, they may fail if he is carrying heavy items. These trips can be split up to 
reduce the weight load. 
More than 1,600 people died from falls on steps and stairs in the United States in 2004. This 
figure is greater than the combined number of swimming pool and bathtub drownings for the 
same year, according to the National Safety Council. The actual number of stairway accidents is 
probably much higher, as many people who sustain injuries don't know why they fell, and others 
are too embarrassed to admit they fell, so these incidents go unreported. 
Elderly occupants are at particular risk of falling down stairs, mostly due to impaired vision, 
reduced strength, and poor balance. For individuals age 65 and older, 260,000 are injured every 
year in falls on steps, stairs and escalators, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 
Handicapped and young children are also at increased risk of sustaining stairway injuries. 
In a study by Loughborough University in England, onethird 
of surveyed households admitted 
to leaving objects on stairs, presenting a serious trip hazard. 
The following is a partial list of defects you may find in stairways: 
There is no safety gate at the top of the stairway in a home with small children. 
Note that some design defects would be difficult or costprohibitive 
to remedy, so this would 
require rebuilding of the stairs. 
Tips to reduce the chance of stairway falls include: 
Install a second handrail for additional support. A second handrail will also provide support for 
two individuals as they pass each other. 
In summary, stairways can pose a serious safety risk, but these risks can be minimized by 
adequate stair construction and safe practices. 
A handrail is loose, incomplete, missing, splintery, not of a contrasting color with its background, 
or has insufficient finger clearance. As deck stairways may be open on both sides, missing 
handrails there put occupants at serious risk. 
Treads are cracked, uneven, worn, loose, or poorly supported. 
Risers are of uneven height. 
Lighting is poor, shadows are numerous, or the corridor leading to the stairs is dark. It’s helpful 
to have a light switch installed at the top and bottom of each staircase. 
The floor is waxed, increasing the chances of slipping. 
Exterior steps are not sloped to prevent water settlement and icing. 
The stair carpeting slides because it is not firmly affixed to the stairs. Doublesided 
tape or tacks 
may be used to prevent slipping. 
Balusters are spaced more than 4 inches apart, allowing a child to potentially slip through and 
get trapped. 
The stairs are not ergonomically designed. 
The stairs are too steep. 
The platform or landing surface is not slipresistant, 
and/or it has a sharp object, blunt wall, or 
window located in the direction of a possible fall. 
The nosing is missing, broken, worn, patched, loose, slippery, or not installed properly. 
Sharp corners are on stair elements. 
Headroom is insufficient. 
Start a regular exercise program, if you haven’t already. Inactivity leads to weakness, 
inflexibility, and an increased risk of falling. 
Remove trip hazards, such as clothes, shoes, toys and/or books from stairs and other places 
where you walk. 
Improve the lighting around the stairs. As you age, you'll need brighter lights to see well. 
Lampshades or frosted bulbs will reduce glare. 
Senior citizens should wear shoes that provide good support and have thin, nonslip 
Avoid lightweight slippers or shoes with deep treads, as they can reduce your feeling of control. 
Do not carry heavy items up and down stairs, especially if the item blocks your view of the 
steps. Also, always hold onto the handrail. 
Deck Safety 
Even decks that appear to be professionally constructed can have defects that could cause their 
collapse. These defects are so difficult for the average homeowner to recognize that the Master 
Inspector Certification Board recommends that all decks be inspected by a Certified Master 
More than 2 million decks are built and replaced each year in North America. Of the 45 million 
existing decks, only 40% are completely safe. 
Because decks appear to be simple to build, many people do not realize that decks are, in fact, 
structures that need to be designed to adequately resist certain stresses. Like any other house 
or building, a deck must be designed to support the weight of people, snow loads, and objects. 
A deck must be able to resist lateral and uplift loads that can act on the deck as a result of wind 
or seismic activity. Deck stairs must be safe, and handrails graspable. And, finally, deck rails 
should be safe for children by having proper infill spacing. 
A deck failure is any failure of a deck that could lead to injury, including rail failure, or total deck 
collapse. There is no international system that tracks deck failures, and each is treated as an 
isolated event, rather than a systemic problem. Very few municipalities perform investigations 
into the cause of the failure, and the media are generally more concerned with injuries rather 
than the causes of deck collapses. Rail failure occurs much more frequently than total deck 
collapses; however, because rail failures are less dramatic than total collapses and normally 
don't result in death, injuries from rail failures are rarely reported. 
Here are some interesting facts about deck failure: 
More decks collapse in the summer than during the rest of the seasons combined. 
Almost every deck collapse occurred while the decks were occupied or under a heavy snow 
There is no correlation between deck failure and whether the deck was built with or without a 
building permit. 
There is no correlation between deck failure and whether the deck was built by a homeowner or 
a professional contractor. 
There is a slight correlation between deck failure and the age of the deck. 
Many doityourself 
homeowners, and even contractors, don't believe that rail infill spacing 
codes apply to decks. 
Significant safety hazards are caused by both DIY and commercially built decks that: 
may be built over a septic system or underground storage tank. 
These are just some of the hazards that make a deck that is unsafe to use. 
Are you planning on entertaining on your deck? Have your Certified Master Inspector® inspect it 
first. Visit www.CertifiedMasterInspector.org to find a CMI in your area. 
lack adequate attachment to the house, both in terms of the deck’s structure and the use of 
improper fasteners; 
are cantilevered in style without the proper support to prevent weakening and collapse; 
are built too high off the ground for their supporting members; 
are not anchored properly at the base with proper footings and piers; 
lack proper bracing at their underside; 
are built on loose or uneven ground; 
have deck planks installed without adequate spacing to allow for drainage of rainwater; 
have deck planks installed without staggering for adequate load support; 
lack proper rail height and width; 
have baluster infill spacing that is too wide; 
lack graspable handrails at the stairs; 
lack a GFCIprotected 
and covered electrical receptacle especially for use at the exterior; 
lack adequate exterior lighting at the deck and/or stairs; 
may have its supporting members subject to excessive moisture, such as by a lawn sprinkler 
may have been built with reclaimed wood that is too weathered, dried out, splintered and/or 
cracked to be safe to support the weight of people; 
may be built over an emergency egress window at the home’s basement or lower level; and/or 
About 90% of deck collapses occurred as a result of the separation of the house and the deck 
ledger board, allowing the deck to swing away from the house. It is very rare for deck floor joists 
to break midspan. 
Many more injuries are the result of rail failure, rather than complete deck collapse. 
Deck stairs are notorious for lacking graspable handrails. 
Swimming Pool Safety 
Home Pools 
Swimming pools should always be happy places. Unfortunately, each year thousands of 
American families confront swimming pool tragedies, drownings, and neardrownings 
of young 
children. At the Master Inspector Certification Board, we want to prevent these tragedies. These 
are guidelines for pool barriers that can help prevent most submersion incidents involving young 
children. These guidelines are not intended as the sole method to minimize pool drowning of 
young children, but include helpful safety tips for safer pools. 
Each year, hundreds of young children die and thousands come close to death due to 
submersion in residential swimming pools. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) 
has estimated that each year, about 300 children under the age of 5 drown in swimming pools. 
Hospital emergencyroom 
treatment is required for more than 2,000 children under 5 who were 
submerged in residential pools. The CPSC did an extensive study of swimming pool accidents, 
both fatal drownings and nearfatal 
submersions, in California, Arizona and Florida states 
which home swimming pools are very popular and used during much of the year. 
Here are some of the study’s findings: 
In California, Arizona and Florida, drowning was the leading cause of accidental death in and 
around the home for children under the age of 5. 
percent of the children involved in swimming pool submersion or drowning 
accidents were between 1 and 3 years old. 
Boys between 1 and 3 were the most likely victims of fatal drownings and nearfatal 
submersions in residential swimming pools. 
Most of the victims were in the presence of one or both parents when the swimming pool 
accident occurred. 
Nearly half of the child victims were last seen in the house before the pool accident occurred. In 
addition, 23% of the accident victims were last seen on the porch or patio, or in the yard. 
This means that 69% of the children who became victims in swimming pool accidents were not 
expected to be in or at the pool, but were found drowned or submerged in the water. 
percent of the accidents occurred in a pool owned by the victim’s immediate family, 
and 33% of the accidents occurred in pools owned by relatives or friends. 
Fewer than 2% of the pool accidents were the result of children trespassing on property where 
they didn’t live or belong. 
percent of the swimming pool accident victims had been missing for five minutes 
or less when they were found in the pool, drowned or submerged. 
The speed with which swimming pool drownings and submersions can occur is a special 
concern: by the time a child’s absence is noted, the child may have drowned. Anyone who has 
cared for a toddler knows how fast young children can move. Toddlers are inquisitive and 
impulsive and lack a realistic sense of danger. These behaviors, coupled with a child’s ability to 
move quickly and unpredictably, make swimming pools particularly hazardous for households 
with young children. 
Swimming pool drownings of young children have another particularly insidious feature: these 
are silent deaths. It is unlikely that splashing or screaming will occur to alert a parent or 
caregiver that a child is in trouble. The best way to reduce child drownings in residential pools is 
for pool owners to construct and maintain barriers that prevent young children from gaining 
access to pools. However, there are no substitutes for diligent supervision. 
Why the Swimming Pool Guidelines Were Developed 
A young child can get over a pool barrier if the barrier is too low, or if the barrier has handholds 
or footholds for a child to use for climbing. The guidelines recommend that the top of a pool 
barrier be at least 48 inches above grade, measured on the side of the barrier that faces away 
from the swimming pool. Eliminating handholds and footholds, and minimizing the size of 
openings in a barrier’s construction, can prevent inquisitive children from climbing pool barriers. 
For a solid barrier, no indentations or protrusions should be present, other than normal 
construction tolerances and masonry joints. For a barrier (fence) made up of horizontal and 
vertical members, if the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is less than 45 
inches, the horizontal members should be on the swimming poolside 
of the fence. The spacing 
of the vertical members should not exceed 13/
4 inches. This size is based on the footwidth 
a young child, and is intended to reduce the potential for a child to gain a foothold. If there are 
any decorative cutouts in the fence, the space within the cutouts should not exceed 13/
The definition of a pool includes spas and hot tubs. The swimming poolbarrier 
therefore, apply to these structures, as well as to conventional swimming pools. 
How to Prevent a Child from Getting Over a Pool Barrier 
A successful pool barrier prevents a child from getting over, under or through, and keeps the 
child from gaining access to the pool except when supervising adults are present. 
The Swimming PoolBarrier 
If the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is more than 45 inches, the 
horizontal members can be on the side of the fence facing away from the pool. The spacing 
between vertical members should not exceed 4 inches. This size is based on the headbreadth 
and chestdepth 
of a young child, and is intended to prevent a child from passing through an 
opening. Again, if there are any decorative cutouts in the fence, the space within the cutouts 
should not exceed 13/
4 inches. 
For a chainlink 
fence, the mesh size should not exceed 11/
4 inches square, unless slats 
fastened at the top or bottom of the fence are used to reduce the mesh openings to no more 
than 13/
4 inches. 
For a fence made up of diagonal members (lattice work), the maximum opening in the lattice 
should not exceed 13/
4 inches. 
pools should have barriers. The pool structure itself can sometimes serves as a 
barrier, or a barrier can be mounted on top of the pool structure. Then, there are two possible 
ways to prevent young children from climbing up into an aboveground 
pool. The steps or ladder 
can be designed to be secured, locked or removed to prevent access, or the steps or ladder can 
be surrounded by a barrier, such as those described above. For any pool barrier, the maximum 
clearance at the bottom of the barrier should not exceed 4 inches above grade, when the 
measurement is done on the side of the barrier facing away from the pool. 
If an aboveground 
pool has a barrier on the top of the pool, the maximum vertical clearance 
between the top of the pool and the bottom of the barrier should not exceed 4 inches. 
Preventing a child from getting through a pool barrier can be done by restricting the sizes of 
openings in a barrier, and by using selfclosing 
and selflatching 
To prevent a young child from getting through a fence or other barrier, all openings should be 
small enough so that a 4inch 
diameter sphere cannot pass through. This size is based on the 
and chestdepth 
of a young child. 
There are two kinds of gates that may be found at a residential property. Both can play a part in 
the design of a swimming pool barrier. 
Pedestrian gates are the gates people walk through. Swimming pool barriers should be 
equipped with a gate or gates that restrict access to the pool. A locking device should be 
included in the gate's design. Gates should open out from the pool and should be selfclosing 
and selflatching. 
If a gate is properly designed, even if the gate is not completely latched, a 
young child pushing on the gate in order to enter the pool area will at least close the gate and 
may actually engage the latch. When the release mechanism of the selflatching 
device is less 
than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate, the release mechanism for the gate should be at 
least 3 inches below the top of the gate on the side facing the pool. Placing the release 
mechanism at this height prevents a young child from reaching over the top of the gate and 
releasing the latch. Also, the gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2inch 
within 18 inches of the latch’s release mechanism. This prevents a young child from reaching 
through the gate and releasing the latch. 
Other gates should be equipped with selflatching 
devices. The selflatching 
devices should be 
installed as described for pedestrian gates. 
How to Prevent a Child from Getting Under or Through a Pool Barrier 
Many homes with pools have doors that open directly onto the pool area or onto a patio that 
leads to the pool. In such cases, the wall of the house is an important part of the pool barrier, 
and passage through any doors in the house wall should be controlled by security measures. 
The importance of controlling a young child’s movements from the house to the pool is 
demonstrated by the statistics obtained during the CPSC’s study of pool incidents in California, 
Arizona and Florida. Almost half (46%) of the children who became victims of pool accidents 
were last seen in the house just before they were found in the pool. 
All doors that permit access to a swimming pool should be equipped with an audible alarm that 
sounds when the door and/or screen are opened. The alarm should sound for 30 seconds or 
more within seven seconds after the door is opened. It should also be loud (at least 85 decibels) 
when measured 10 feet away from the alarm mechanism. The alarm sound should be distinct 
from other sounds in the house, such as the telephone, doorbell and smoke alarm. The alarm 
should have an automatic reset 
feature. Because adults will want to pass through house doors 
in the pool barrier without setting off the alarm, the alarm should have a switch that allows them 
to temporarily deactivate 
the alarm for up to 15 seconds. The deactivation 
switch could be a 
touch pad (keypad) or a manual switch, and should be located at least 54 inches above the 
threshold of the door protected by the alarm. This height was selected based on the reaching 
ability of young children. 
Power safety covers can be installed on pools to serve as security barriers. Power safety covers 
should conform to the specifications in ASTM F 134691. 
This standard specifies safety 
performance requirements for pool covers to protect young children from drowning. Selfclosing 
doors with selflatching 
devices could also be used to safeguard doors that permit ready access 
to a swimming pool. 
Indoor Pools 
When a pool is located completely within a house, the walls that surround the pool should be 
equipped to serve as pool safety barriers. The measures recommended above where a house 
wall serves as part of a safety barrier also apply for all the walls surrounding an indoor pool. 
An outdoor swimming pool, including an inground, 
or onground 
pool, hot tub, or 
spa, should be provided with a barrier that complies with the following: 
1. The top of the barrier should be at least 48 inches above grade, measured on the side of the 
barrier that faces away from the swimming pool. The maximum vertical clearance between 
grade and the bottom of the barrier should be 4 inches measured on the side of the barrier that 
faces away from the swimming pool. Where the top of the pool structure is above grade, such 
as an aboveground 
pool, the barrier may be at ground level, such as the pool structure, or 
mounted on top of the pool structure. Where the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, 
the maximum vertical clearance between the top of the pool structure and the bottom of the 
barrier should be 4 inches. 
2. Openings in the barrier should not allow the passage of a 4inch 
diameter sphere. 
3. Solid barriers, which do not have openings, such as a masonry and stone wall, should not 
contain indentations or protrusions, except for normal construction tolerances and tooled 
masonry joints. 
4. Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members, and the distance between 
the tops of the horizontal members is less than 45 inches, the horizontal members should be 
located on the swimming poolside 
of the fence. 
Spacing between vertical members should not exceed 13/
4 inches in width. Where there are 
decorative cutouts, spacing within the cutouts should not exceed 13/
4 inches in width. 
5. Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members, and the distance between 
the tops of the horizontal members is 45 inches or more, spacing between vertical members 
should not exceed 4 inches. Where there are decorative cutouts, spacing within the cutouts 
should not exceed 13/
4 inches in width. 
6. The maximum mesh size for chainlink 
fences should not exceed 13/
4 inch square, unless 
the fence is provided with slats fastened at the top or the bottom, which reduce the openings to 
no more than 13/
4 inches. 
7. Where the barrier is composed of diagonal members, such as a lattice fence, the maximum 
opening formed by the diagonal members should be no more than 13/
4 inches. 
8. Access gates to the pool should be equipped to accommodate a locking device. Pedestrian 
access gates should open outward, away from the pool, and should be selfclosing 
and have a 
device. Gates other than pedestrian access gates should have a selflatching 
device, where the release mechanism of the selflatching 
device is located less than 54 inches 
from the bottom of the gate. 
The gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2inch 
within 18 inches of the 
release mechanism. 
9. Where a wall of a dwelling serves as part of the barrier, one of the following should apply: 
Other means of protection, such as selfclosing 
doors with selflatching 
devices, are acceptable, 
as long as the degree of protection afforded is not less than the protection afforded by the 
guidelines above. 
10. Where an aboveground 
pool structure is used as a barrier, or where the barrier is mounted 
on top of the pool structure, and the means of access is a ladder or steps, then: 
The release mechanism should be located on the poolside 
of the gate at least 3 inches below 
the top of the gate. 
All doors with direct access to the pool through that wall should be equipped with an alarm that 
produces an audible warning when the door and its screen, if present, are opened. The alarm 
should sound continuously for a minimum of 30 seconds within seven seconds after the door is 
opened. The alarm should have a minimum sound pressure rating of 85 dBA at 10 feet, and the 
sound of the alarm should be distinctive from other household sounds, such as smoke alarms, 
telephones and doorbells. The alarm should automatically reset 
under all conditions. The alarm 
should be equipped with manual means, such as touchpads or switches, to temporarily deactivate 
the alarm for a single opening of the door from either direction. Such deactivation 
should last for no more than 15 seconds. The deactivation 
touch pads or switches should be 
located at least 54 inches above the threshold of the door. 
The pool should be equipped with a power safety cover that complies with ASTM F134691. 
The ladder or steps should be surrounded by a barrier. When the ladder or steps are secured, 
locked, or removed, any opening created should not allow the passage of a 4inch 
These guidelines are intended to provide a means of protection against potential drownings of 
children under 5 years of age by restricting access to residential swimming pools, spas and hot 
Swimming Pool Barriers 
An outdoor swimming pool barrier is a physical obstacle that surrounds an outdoor pool so that 
pool access is limited to adults. “Pool,” in this context, includes outdoor hot tubs and spas. This 
barrier is often referred to as pool fencing, although walls made from brick or stone are 
acceptable, as well. Children should not be able to get under, over or through the barrier. 
Why are pool barriers important? 
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 250 
children drown every year in residential swimming pools. In states where swimming pools are 
open yearround, 
such as Florida, Arizona and California, drowning is the leading cause of 
death in and around the home for children under 5 years old. Many of these deaths result when 
young children gain unsupervised access to swimming pools due to inadequate pool fencing. 
Codes concerning pool barriers vary by jurisdiction. Some states, such as Arizona, Florida and 
California, have compiled their own laws concerning pool barriers, while other locations rely on 
the International Residential Code (IRC). The CPSC has thoroughly researched poolrelated 
hazards and has compiled its own set of codes for pool fencing. The Australian government, 
too, has placed tremendous emphasis on the development of pool barrier codes in an attempt to 
reduce the number of deaths due to drowning in that country. The code below is taken mostly 
from the 2006 edition of the IRC and is substantially similar to the other codes previously 
mentioned. A few helpful parts of the Australian code are also listed. 
2006 International Building Code Pool Barrier Requirements: 
AG105.2. Outdoor swimming pool. An outdoor swimming pool, including an inground, 
or onground 
pool, hot tub or spa, shall be surrounded by a barrier which shall 
comply with the following: 
1. The top of the barrier shall be at least 48 inches above grade measured on the side of the 
barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. The maximum vertical clearance between 
grade and the bottom of the barrier shall be 2 inches measured on the side of the barrier which 
faces away from the swimming pool. Where the top of the pool structure is above grade, such 
as an aboveground 
pool, the barrier may be at ground level, such as the pool structure, or 
mounted on top of the pool structure. Where the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, 
the maximum vertical clearance between the top of the pool structure and the bottom of the 
barrier shall be 4 inches. 
The ladder to the pool or steps should be capable of being secured, locked or removed to 
prevent access. 
2. Openings in the barrier shall not allow passage of a 4inchdiameter 
3. Solid barriers which do not have openings, such as a masonry or stone wall, shall not contain 
indentations or protrusions, except for normal construction tolerances and tooled masonry 
4. Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members and the distance between 
the tops of the horizontal members is less than 45 inches, the horizontal members shall be 
located on the swimming pool side of the fence. Spacing between vertical members shall not 
exceed 13/
4 inches in width. Where there are decorative cutouts within vertical members, 
spacing within the cutouts shall not exceed 13/
4 inches in width. 
5. Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members and the distance between 
the tops of the horizontal members is 45 inches or more, spacing between vertical members 
shall not exceed 4 inches. Where there are decorative cutouts within vertical members, spacing 
within the cutouts shall not exceed 13/
4 inches in width. 
6. Maximum mesh size for chain link fences shall be a 21/
4 inches square unless the fence has 
slats fastened at the top or the bottom which reduce the openings to not more than 11/
4 inches. 
7. Where the barrier is composed of diagonal members, such as a lattice fence, the maximum 
opening formed by the diagonal members shall not be more than 13/
4 inches. 
8. Access gates shall comply with the requirements of Section AG105.2, Items 1 through 7, and 
shall be equipped to accommodate a locking device. Pedestrian access gates shall open 
outward, away from the pool, and shall be selfclosing 
and have a selflatching 
device. Gates 
other than pedestrian access gates shall have a selflatching 
device. Where the release 
mechanism of the selflatching 
device is located less than 54 inches from the bottom of the 
gate, the release mechanism and openings shall comply with the following: 
8.1 The release mechanism shall be located on the poolside 
of the gate at least 3 inches 
below the top of the gate; and 
8.2 The gate and barrier shall have no opening larger than 1/2inch 
(13 mm) within 18 inches 
of the release mechanism. 
9. Where a wall of a dwelling serves as part of the barrier, one of the following conditions shall 
be met: 
9.1. The pool shall be equipped with a powered safety cover in compliance with ASTM F 1346; 
or 9.2. Doors with direct access to the pool through that wall shall be equipped with an alarm 
which produces an audible warning when the door and/or its screen, if present, are opened. The 
alarm shall be listed in accordance with UL 2017. The audible alarm shall activate within seven 
seconds and sound continuously for a minimum of 30 seconds after the door and/or its screen, 
if present, are opened and be capable of being heard throughout the house during normal 
household activities. The alarm shall automatically reset 
under all conditions. The alarm system 
shall be equipped with a manual means, such as touch pad or switch, to temporarily deactivate 
the alarm for a single opening. Deactivation 
shall last for not more than 15 seconds. The 
switch(es) shall be located at least 54 inches above the threshold of the door; or 
9.3. Other means of protection, such as selfclosing 
doors with selflatching 
devices, which are 
approved by the governing body, shall be acceptable, so long as the degree of protection 
afforded is not less than the protection afforded by Item 9.1 or 9.2 described above. 
10. Where an aboveground 
pool structure is used as a barrier, or where the barrier is mounted 
on top of the pool structure, and the means of access is a ladder or steps: 
10.1. The ladder or steps shall be capable of being secured, locked or removed to prevent 
access; or 10.2. The ladder or steps shall be surrounded by a barrier which meets the 
requirements of Section AG105.2, Items 1 through 9. When the ladder or steps are secured, 
locked or removed, any opening created shall not allow the passage of a 4inchdiameter 
AG105.3 Indoor swimming pool. Walls surrounding an indoor swimming pool shall comply with 
Section AG105.2, Item 9. 
AG105.4 Prohibited locations. Barriers shall be located to prohibit permanent structures, 
equipment or similar objects from being used to climb them. 
AG105.5 Barrier exceptions. Spas or hot tubs with a safety cover, which complies with ASTM F 
1346, as listed in Section AG107, shall be exempt from the provisions of this appendix. 
The 1994 edition of Australia’s Building Code offers the following suggestions concerning fence 
If a fence has gaps, they should be of such a size that a young child is prevented from slipping 
through, but the gaps also need to have dimensions such that any part of a young child's body 
cannot be trapped. 
Currently, the IRC makes no mention of regulations for “danger” or CPR signs that should be 
attached on pool barriers. The Australian Building Code offers the following concerning CPR 
The CPR sign needs to be durable, and placed in a conspicuous place near the pool. It must 
detail the procedures necessary to undertake cardiopulmonary resuscitation. 
In summary, homeowners should try to spot and correct defects in pool fencing. 
Pool Alarms 
A pool alarm is a safety feature designed to alert adults when unsupervised children enter a 
pool. There are many different designs available, but none is foolproof. Pool owners should 
become acquainted with these innovations, the main types available, and the potential dangers 
of doing without. 
Drowning remains the second leading killer of children under the age of 14 and, in many 
Sunbelt states, drowning tops the list. 
Approximately 350 children under the age of 5 drown in swimming pools annually, mostly in 
residential settings. Many of these deaths occur when unsupervised children enter a pool and 
are unable to swim or exit, resulting in drowning or neardrowning 
within minutes. In these 
situations, pool alarms may have reduced the response time of adults, perhaps saving the child. 
In December 2007, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act took effect, which 
created a voluntary grant program that encourages states to pass legislation for pool and spa 
safety. The bill requires states to write laws that call for pool alarms, as well as door alarms, 
pool covers, and selfclosing/
gates. Currently, however, only California, 
Connecticut and New York have passed such legislation. 
Pool Alarm Types 
Wristband: This device is worn around the child’s wrist and it cannot be removed without a key. 
The alarm will activate when the wristband becomes wet, which creates opportunities for false 
alarms, such as when the child washes his or her hands, or walks in the rain. 
In 2000, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff conducted a review of 
commercially available swimming pool alarm systems designed to detect water disturbance or 
displacement. The CPSC staff evaluated surface wave sensors, subsurface 
testers, and the wristband. The testers concluded that the subsurface 
pool alarms generally 
performed more consistently for true alarms than the other designs, which were more likely to 
emit false alarms. 
Since pool alarms are not foolproof and they rely on someone remembering to activate them, 
they should not be depended upon as a substitute for supervision, or for a barrier completely 
surrounding the pool. Pool alarms should also be used in conjunction with other types of alarms, 
such as gate alarms, perimeter alarms, and window and door alarms. Even some pet doors 
come equipped with alarms, owing to the recent attention given to the 100 or so documented 
accidents when a child escaped to a pool through a pet door. Pool alarms are thus one 
protective layer of many, none of which is sufficient as a sole preventative measure against 
child drowning. 
Pool alarms can be used to save dogs and cats, too. Data show that one out of every 1,027 
pets drown in pools each year, which is a statistically higher risk than the drowning threat for 
small children. The 
Surface wave sensor: This type of sensor floats on the water and incorporates an electrical 
circuit that includes two contacts. One of these contacts rests in the water, while the other is 
adjusted to remain above the water's surface. When a surface wave touches the abovesurface 
contact, the electrical circuit is completed, causing an alarm to sound. Sensitivity can be 
increased or decreased by moving the abovesurface 
contact closer to or further away from the 
water’s surface. 
disturbance sensor: Mounted to the pool wall below the water’s surface, this type of 
sensor is activated by waveinduced 
pressure changes. One design relies on the movement of 
a magnetic float below a magnetic sensor, while another design relies on a pressuresensitive 
switch. Subsurface 
alarms can also be used in conjunction with solar covers, whereas the 
surface wavesensor 
alarms cannot. 
reason here is obvious: pets are more likely to be allowed to roam free and unsupervised 
compared to small children, especially in rural areas where nearby traffic is not a danger. Also, 
pool fences may thwart children, while dogs and cats can jump or climb their way to the other 
side. Not all dogs are good swimmers, though, and even healthy dogs that are used to 
swimming in ponds might not be able to lift themselves out of a pool when they’re tired. 
In summary, pool alarms are useful safety features to be used strictly in conjunction with other 
Pool Drain Hazards 
While drowning is a wellpublicized 
danger associated with swimming pools, comparatively little 
has been reported about injuries and deaths caused by pool drains. Water rushing out of the 
drain creates a suction that can ensnare swimmers, usually small children, causing debilitating 
injuries and death. These drains come standard in swimming pools, hot tubs and wading pools, 
and while they appear harmless, parents should understand the potential dangers they pose. 
Drain covers can break or be removed by people who are unaware of the possible 
repercussions. When this happens, a swimmer playing with the drain may become stuck to it in 
a way similar to how a vacuum will stick to the palm of the hand, but with much more force; 350 
pounds of pressure is normal for a pool drain, and public pools are even more powerful. This 
“suction entrapment” can hold the bather in the drain's grasp until the person drowns or 
escapes, often seriously injured. 
In July of 2007, a 6yearold 
Minnesota girl was hospitalized after being severely injured when 
she sat over an open drain in a wading pool. The suction from the drain, which did not have a 
cover, pulled out her small intestine, requiring her to be fed intravenously. She died months 
later, joining the 36 other people, mostly children, who are known to have been killed in similar 
accidents since 1990. The actual numbers are likely much higher, as physicians often do not 
distinguish drowning caused by drainage suction from ordinary drowning. 
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) distinguishes between five types of drain 
1. body entrapment, where a section of the torso becomes entrapped. The CPSC is aware of 74 
cases of body entrapment, including 13 confirmed deaths, between January 1990 and August 
2004. The deaths were the result of drowning after the body was held against the drain by the 
suction of the circulation pump; 2. limb entrapment, where an arm or leg is pulled into an open 
drain pipe; 3. hair entrapment or entanglement, where a person’s hair is pulled in and wrapped 
around the 
grate of the drain cover. The CPSC is aware of 43 incidents of hair entrapment or entanglement 
in pools, spas and hot tubs between January 1990 and August 2004. Twelve of the incidents 
resulted in drowning deaths; 
4. mechanical entrapment, where jewelry or part of the swimmer’s clothing gets caught in the 
drain or grate; and 5. evisceration, where the victim’s buttocks come into contact with the 
pool suction outlet and he 
or she is disemboweled. While these accidents are rare, they result in lifelong impairment. 
While laws regulating swimming pools are complex and vary by state, it is still helpful for 
homeowners to learn the following ways in which pool drains can be made safer: 
Install an additional drain. According to the CPSC, “providing multiple outlets from the pool to 
the suctionside 
of the pump allows flow to continue to the pump, and reduces the likelihood of 
an entrapping suction from being generated when a body blocks one of the outlets.” 
In summary, accidents caused by pool drains are often gruesome, but they can be prevented 
when the appropriate pool safety devices are installed and children are adequately supervised. 
Pool Water Pathogens 
Germs from other swimmers and unsafe water supplies can easily contaminate pool water, 
especially if it isn’t properly disinfected. Contaminated recreational water can cause a variety of 
ailments and diseases, such as diarrhea, and skin, ear and upper respiratory infections, 
particularly if the swimmer's head is submerged. Homeowners should be familiar with the 
problems caused by contaminated pool and spa water and the ways to prevent them. 
Viruses, bacteria and protozoa are the culprits in most swimming poolrelated 
outbreaks. The mucus, saliva, blood and skin of infected swimmers can directly contaminate 
pool and spa water with sufficient pathogens to cause infections in other swimmers who come in 
contact with it. Feces are a particular danger in pools, as the pathogens they contain are 
typically present in enormous numbers, approaching a million per gram of feces. A single fecal 
release in a pool could contaminate millions of gallons of water, according to the University of 
Arizona's College of Public Health. Large outbreaks of disease are uncommon and they don’t 
typically happen in residential settings, but they should alert homeowners to just how contagious 
pathogens are when they’re waterborne. 
Make sure that a drain cover is present and firmly attached to the drain. If the drain cover is 
missing or damaged, no one should be allowed to enter the pool, and a professional should be 
contacted immediately. As of December 2008, the CPSC required antientrapment 
drain covers 
to be installed in all public pools. 
Make sure there is a safety snap fitting serving the ground pool cleaner. These devices 
automatically suck away dirt and leaves, but if they become disconnected from the suction fitting 
at the pool wall, a hazardous situation can develop. A safety snap fitting is a springloaded 
stopper that will end any suction through the port if any disconnection occurs. 
Check to see if there is a safety vacuumrelease 
system. This device will cause the drainage to 
automatically cease if any entrapment occurs. 
Check for an antientanglement 
drain cover. This type of fitting is molded in a particular way so 
as to prevent hair entanglement. 
Use no drains at all. Gutters and overflows can be used to provide water to the pump without 
the need for a drain. 
Consider the following such cases: 
hepatitis A and noroviruses. 
Pool disinfectants can kill most germs in less than an hour, but for others, it can take longer. 
Cryptosporidium, for instance, can survive for up to 10 days in a properly chlorinated pool, and 
other pathogens are completely resistant to chlorine. In addition, the unique circulation patterns 
found in pools may allow poor water circulation in some areas, making it unlikely that all 
pathogen activity can be fully prevented. The unfortunate truth is that chlorinated swimming 
pools can and do transmit disease. Swimmers should not rely solely on the pool's chemical 
treatments and should heed the following precautions: 
Don’t swim when you have diarrhea. Diarrhea can be transmitted in pool water weeks after 
symptoms cease. 
In summary, pathogens can easily permeate an entire pool. Some are resistant to chlorination. 
Pool owners should know that chemical treatments for pools and spas are best supplemented 
with good hygiene. 
In 2001 in an Illinois water park, 358 people contracted diarrhea, despite adequate chlorine and 
pH levels. Swimmers can add up to several pounds of feces per day in a typical water park. 
Homeowners can benefit from learning about the basic pathogens that are commonly found in 
swimming pools: 
In 1998 in Georgia, 26 people were sickened after swimming in a pool with a child who had E. 
coli. Seven people were hospitalized and one was killed by the outbreak. The pool’s chlorine 
level had not been adequately maintained. 
In New Mexico in 2008, a competitive swimmer who ignored symptoms of diarrhea caused 92 
swimmers, including other competitive swimmers, coaches and lifeguards, to contract the 
bacteria, such as E. coli, shigella (which causes dysentery), campylobacter, and salmonella. 
Bacteria are generally killed quickly by chlorine disinfectant in properly maintained swimming 
pools at a concentration of 1 part per million. E. coli, for instance, will be inactivated in less than 
one minute if exposed to typical disinfectant concentrations; 
protozoa, such as cryptosporidium (which causes diarrhea), and giardia, also known for its 
severe gastrointestinal effects. Some of these pathogens are highly resistant to chlorine and 
can survive for days in typical chlorine concentrations; and 
Don’t ever swallow pool water. Children sometimes jokingly spit pool water back into the pool or 
at their friends, but this is dangerous, as some of it may be swallowed. 
Shower with soap and water before and after swimming. 
Wash your hands with soap and water after using a toilet or changing diapers. 
Remove small children from pools for bathroom breaks, and check infants’ diapers often. 
Change diapers in a bathroom, not beside the pool. 
Wash children, especially their rear ends, thoroughly with soap and water before they enter a 
A sauna is a small, sealed room, typically constructed of wood, designed to safely increase the 
user’s body temperature through a combination of heat and wellcontrolled 
humidity. Saunas 
are used recreationally and therapeutically, as users find them relaxing and healthpromoting. 
Facts and Figures 
One of the earliest sauna designs is the smoke sauna, in which stones warm the room after 
being heated by a fire, which is extinguished before the room is ready for bathers. The smoke is 
vented from the sauna, but its aroma lingers. The concept was nearly abandoned but has seen 
a revival over the past few decades. 
Safety Tips 
“Sauna” is the only Finnish word in the English dictionary. Traditionally, the Finns used the 
sauna as a place to clear the mind, give birth, and prepare the dead for burial. They were not 
used for weight loss or as part of an exercise regimen, which are newer concepts for their use 
Saunas can be divided into two basic styles: 
o infrared saunas directly warm 
occupants and other objects (much like the sun) using charcoal or other objects; and o 
conventional saunas heat the room indirectly by warming the air. 
Saunas stimulate the cardiovascular system and should not be used by anyone with high blood 
pressure, diabetes, heart disease, or while under the use of antibiotics or other drugs. 
Never stay in a sauna longer than 30 minutes. While it may be fun to see who can stay in the 
sauna the longest, this sort of game is extremely dangerous and has led to injury and even 
death. One experienced sauna devotee died in a sauna competition in August 2010. 
Never wear jewelry in the sauna, as the metal and stones may heat up and burn exposed skin. 
Use a towel as a barrier between yourself and the seat in a public commercial sauna to protect 
yourself against disease. Strains of antibioticresistant 
bacteria, known collectively as methicillinresistant 
Staphylococcus aureus, have been shown to inhabit excessively humid and poorly 
cleaned public saunas and steam rooms. Reducing the humidity can also control the risk of 
Children should not use saunas because their immature bodies and metabolism have trouble 
to stave off hyperthermia. 
Recommended Sauna Design Features 
Adequate ventilation is perhaps the most overlooked sauna design feature. Outgoing ventilation 
expels stale air and reduces humidityspawned 
mildew and moisture, which can cause wood 
decay. Incoming ventilation brings in fresh air, ensuring the safety and comfort of the users. 
Saunas typically have a vent behind the stove and another on the opposite wall near the ceiling. 
While the sauna may vent to the outside of the building, this is not required in residential 
saunas, and many systems utilize interior ventilation to heat the adjacent living space. 
Some other essential design features include the following: 
The sauna should be regularly inspected for mildew and wood decay around its exterior. 
In summary, saunas are sealed, heated rooms used for therapeutic purposes and relaxation, 
but they must be used and maintained properly to ensure the health and safety of their users. 
Home Security 
There are a number of measures that homeowners can take to ensure that their homes are not 
attractive to burglars. 
Freestanding saunas must have a solid foundation. 
Sauna doors should be sealed and insulated. 
The sauna door should swing outward and should not be equipped with a latching mechanism. 
If the user is in distress, he should be able to easily push his way out of the sauna. 
Saunas should be constructed from a decayresistant 
species of tree, such as cypress, 
redwood, spruce, cedar, or Douglas fir. 
Any electrical wiring should be moistureproof 
and able to resist high temperatures. 
Metal, especially screw heads, should not be exposed where people sit, lean or walk. Metal will 
get excessively hot and could burn exposed skin. 
The ceiling height should be between 61/2 to 71/2 feet, but not higher, as heat will uselessly pool 
above the user’s head. Also, undue stress will be placed on the heater, which will be forced to 
work harder to heat the room. 
The temperature should not exceed 195° F, as recommended by the Underwriters Laboratories. 
Saunas heated by woodburning 
stoves may be capable of exceeding this temperature, but this 
is not advisable, as it can endanger the users' safety. Saunas that utilize excessive amounts of 
steam should be set to a lower temperature, as wet heat can cause scalding. 
The floor can be made from concrete, vinyl or tile, but not carpet, which will deteriorate from the 
heat and humidity and create moisturecaused 
health hazards. Carpet is also a fire hazard. 
To best utilize the space and to achieve a balanced temperature throughout the sauna, the 
shape of the sauna room should be nearly square. 
Some interesting statistics concerning breakins 
in the United States: 
In 2005, law enforcement agencies reported more than 2 million burglary offenses. 
According to a survey, burglars tend to enter homes through the following locations: 
2% enter from somewhere on the second floor. 
Some interesting statistics (2002) concerning breakins 
in Canada: 
The burglary rate in Canada is slightly higher than that of the United States (746 per 100,000 
people), but significantly less than the burglary rate in Australia (2,275 per 100,000 people). 
Exterior Doors 
The Master Inspector Certification Board estimates that theft makes up more than threequarters 
of all reported crime. 
81% enter through the first floor; 
34% enter through the front door; 
23% enter through a firstfloor 
22% enter through the back door; 
9% enter through the garage; 
4% enter through the basement; 
4% enter through an unlocked entrance; 
2% enter through a storage area; and 
The burglary rate in Canada (877 per 100,000 people) is seven times higher than that of the 
country with the fewest breakins, 
Doors should be made of steel or solidcore 
wood construction. Hollowcore 
wood doors are 
more easily broken than heavy, solidcore 
Doors should be free of signs of rot, cracks and warping. 
Doors should be protected by quality deadbolt locks. Chain locks are not adequate substitutes 
for deadbolt locks, although chain locks may be used as additional protection. 
If a mail slot is present, it should be equipped with a cage or box. Mail slots that are not 
equipped with cages or boxes have been used by burglars to enter homes. Burglars can insert a 
contraption made of wire and cord into the mail slot and use it to open the lock from the inside, if 
no box or cage is present. 
If a door is equipped with glass panes, they should be installed far from the lock. Otherwise, 
burglars can smash the glass and reach through to unlock the door. 
Spare keys should not be hidden in obvious locations. Burglars are very good at finding keys 
that homeowners believe are cleverly hidden. The best place for a spare key is in the house of a 
trusted neighbor. If keys must be hidden near the door, they should not be placed in obvious 
locations, such as under a doormat, rock or planter. 
A peephole can be installed in doors so homeowners can see who is on their doorstep before 
they open the door. 
Homeowners should consider installing bumpresistant 
locks on their doors. “Bumping” is a 
technique that can open almost any standard lock with less effort than is required by lockpicking. 
This technique uses "bump keys," which are standard house keys with slight modifications. Lock 
companies, including as Schlage®, Primus® and Medeco®, manufacture a number of locks that 
offer some bumpresistance. 
Pet Doors 
Electronic pet doors are available that open only when the pet, equipped with a signaling device 
in its collar, approaches the door. These doors are designed to keep stray animals out of the 
home, and may provide protection against burglars, as well. 
Sliding Glass Doors 
A cutoff 
broom handle, or a similar device, can be laid into the door track to prevent it from 
being opened all the way. 
It is helpful to install exterior lights that are activated by motion sensors. Burglars that are 
suddenly illuminated may flee. 
Windows should not be hidden by landscaping or structures. If landscaping or structures cannot 
be moved, lighting can be installed around the windows. 
Landscaping and Yard 
Pet doors can be used by burglars to enter homes. Some burglars have reached through pet 
doors in order to unlock the door. It is advisable to not have a pet door, but if one is necessary, 
it should be as small as possible and installed far from the lock. 
A crafty burglar may convince or coerce a small child to crawl through a pet door and unlock the 
door. Also, some burglars are children. 
They should be equipped with locks on their tops and bottoms. 
They should not be able to be lifted from their frames. 
Lights should be installed on the exterior of all four sides of the house. Burglars prefer darkness 
so they cannot be seen by neighbors or passersby. 
When building occupants are not home, a few lights should be left on inside. 
All windows should be composed of strong glass, such as laminated glass, and be in good 
operating order. 
They can be installed with bars, grilles, grates, or heavyduty 
wire screening. Barred windows 
must be equipped with a quickrelease 
mechanism so occupants can quickly escape during a 
Shrubs and trees should not obscure the view of entrances. Shielded entrances can provide 
cover for burglars while they attempt to enter the residence. 
Fences are helpful burglar deterrents, although they should not be difficult to see through. 
While the house is vacant: 
The lawn should be mowed regularly. Uncut grass is a clue that no one is home. 
Other Tips 
If no security system is installed, the homeowner can post security alarm stickers around the 
In summary, there are many tactics that homeowners can implement to help safeguard their 
homes from breakins. 
Bump Keys 
What Is a Bump Key? 
Most people think a locked door affords them security, but to anyone who knows how to use a 
bump key, a door lock is just a minor inconvenience. 
Bump keys are keys cut to a special design that will allow them to be used for picking 
locks. Pintumbler 
locks are the world's most popular lock, and these include 
exterior door entry locks for homes. The process of gaining entry using a bump key is called 
“bumping,” and it can be very effective. 
All the cuts on a bump key are made to the maximum depth, so any key blank can be made into 
a bump key. Bump keys are manufacturerspecific. 
A Kwikset® lock requires a bump key made 
from a Kwikset® key. The same is true for other lock brands. So, a full set of bump keys would 
include one for each of the major lockset manufacturers. 
A loud radio can be used to make burglars think someone is home. Timers can be used to 
activate radios and lights to make the home seem occupied. 
A car should always be parked in the driveway. A neighbor’s car can be parked there so that it 
appears as if someone is home. 
Dogs are excellent burglar deterrents. For homeowners who cannot own dogs, they can place 
"Beware of Dog" signs around the yard for nearly the same effect. 
Above: a pintumbler 
How Do They Work? 
Keys operate by aligning tiny springloaded 
pins inside the lock. Once the pins are correctly 
aligned, the cylinder will turn and the lock can be operated. 
To use a bump key, the "pullback" 
method is common. With this method, the key is inserted all 
the way in, and then pulled back out one notch. While keeping rotational pressure on the key, it 
is then bumped into the keyway with the heel of the hand or with a device of some sort. 
The "bumper" needs to bump the key hard enough to jar the pins, but not so much that the lock 
or key is damaged. Bumping the key causes the pins to jump slightly. Even this slight amount of 
motion is enough to allow the bump key to turn the cylinder, unlocking the lock. 
The image aboveleft 
shows the condition just before the key is bumped. The image aboveright 
is just after the key has been bumped. The driver pins (in blue) have bounced above the shear 
line, while the key pins (in red) are still below the shear line. As long as the shear line is 
unblocked, the cylinder can turn and the lock will open. 
Another method for using a bump key, called "minimal movement," is slightly more sophisticated 
than the pullback 
method. Bumpkey 
performance can be improved by filing away an additional 
0.25 to 0.5 mm from the key tip and shoulder, allowing the key to be inserted slightly farther into 
the lock. 
How Effective Are Bump Keys? 
The success of the bumper depends on practice. Very little skill is required, and the learning 
curve is short. Success will also vary with the type of lock and quality of the key. Keys made 
from soft metal won’t last long. Bumping tends to work better on more expensive locks, since 
the hard, highquality 
parts work more smoothly. 
Bump keys sometimes deform when they’re hit, causing them to jam in the keyway. They can 
be difficult to remove. 
How Can I Tell if a Lock Has Been Bumped? 
You can sometimes spot a lock that has been opened with a bump key if you see a small 
indentation just above the keyway. Some older, softer locks will have dents even though they 
have not been bumped. 
It’s also possible to make bump keys that are protected from leaving indentations. You may be 
able to tell that a lock has been bumped, but don’t count on it. 
Above: a typical bump key 
Can I Buy a Bump Key? 
Owning or possessing a bump key is not currently illegal, and bump key sets, and videos on 
how to use them, are available online. To acquire a bump key, all that’s needed is the 
identification of the manufacturer of the lock. 
How Can I Improve My Home's Security? 
At least two companies, Schlage® and Baldwin, make locksets designed to defeat bump keys. 
But many locks that use a key and the pintumbler 
system are vulnerable to bumping. No 
standards exist that demonstrate resistance to bumping. The resistance to bumping a deadbolt 
lockset varies with the manufacturer. Electronic locks that have a key override are also 
locks are rare and expensive. Bumpresistant 
locks are much more common. Some 
(but not all) lockset manufacturers include bumpresistant 
features in their newer locks. 
Without buying a new, bumpresistant 
lock, consumers have two options. Usually, for less than 
$20, a locksmith can replace the original lock pins with "mushroom" pins, sometimes called 
spool pins, depending on the manufacturer. While these pins will improve the resistance of the 
lock, they will not make it bumpproof. 
Medeco® is a company that makes highend 
locks. They can provide bumpproof 
lock cylinders 
for which a duplicate key is available only through Medeco®authorized 
dealers. Their cylinders 
start at around $100, although their lessexpensive 
cylinders may not be bumpproof. 
Will Insurance Cover Theft? 
If a home is burglarized using a bump key, the theft may or may not be covered by insurance, 
depending on how the policy is written. If proof of forced entry is required, the theft may not be 
covered. Be sure to consult your insurance agent with questions about this. 
Although bump keys have been around for more than 50 years, their existence has become 
more widelyknown 
with the advent of the Internet. Consumers should be aware of this potential 
danger to their home's security. 
In summary, homeowners should make sure their door locks are sufficiently secure to prevent 
unauthorized entry by someone using a bump key. Taking extra safety precautions, such as 
installing an alarm system, can provide homeowners with enhanced protection of their property. 
The 10 Best Places to Hide Valuables in Your Home 
Burglary is a crime of opportunity. And burglars don’t want to spend a lot of time looking through 
a home to find things of value to steal, which is why there are obvious locations that they always 
check. That means that there are ways to outsmart them by hiding your valuables in 
places, and sometimes even in plain sight. 
Depending on the size and type of item, the best places to hide valuables are those that 
burglars don’t want to search through or wouldn’t bother with, including places that are 
inconvenient or difficult to search, messy, or uninteresting. 
Here Are the Top 10: 
1. Hollowedout 
books. Criminals tend to be uneducated, which is why they’ve turned to crime 
to make their living. They’re practically allergic to books! But if you have only a couple of books 
on a bookshelf, this may be a clue that they’re actually hiding places for your valuables, so 
make sure your library is large enough to serve as a tedious place to search. 
2. A false VHS tape or VHS carton. Who watches VHS tapes anymore? Again, follow the rules 
above for books. A few can be a clue, but many can be a timeconsuming 
3. False containers in the kitchen cupboard, under the sink, and in the bathroom, such as fake 
cans and boxes, false cleaning product bottles, and personal hygiene items, and even in a 
heavy tub of "cat litter." Some false containers available on the market today actually look like 
false containers, so you might want to save yourself the expense and create your own. 
4. In the false bottom or under the plastic liner of a bathroom or kitchen trash can. No one wants 
to go pawing through your trash in the slim hope of finding something worth pawning. 
5. Wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil and stored in the back of the freezer. This is also a 
place to store documents and paper currency in case of a house fire. 
6. In a floor safe in the bedroom closet. While this location may be obvious, a burglar would 
to exert a lot of time and energy—and create a lot of noise—trying to break into a floor safe, 
which is also generally of the heavy variety, making it not only hard to open, but hard to steal 
whole, if the thief had plans to break into it later. 
7. Inside a house plant. Using the same method as for trash containers, a plant’s soil can be 
contained in a waterproof liner that can be lifted up to hide items underneath. Just make sure 
the items you’re hiding are in a waterproof container, too. 
8. Inside a false wall outlet. Make sure it’s not a live receptacle or in the way of any electrical 
9. Within hollowedout/
removable building components, such as wainscoting, floor panels, door 
jambs, window sills, and cabinet doors. 
10. In the garage inside boxes marked with mundane labels, such as “Xmas Ornaments,” “Kid’s 
Clothes,” “School Projects,” etc. Again, the more boxes you have, the longer the burglar will 
have to search—if he’s so inclined—to find something worth stealing. 
Hiding Places to Avoid: 
1. Areas that can damage your valuables with water or invasive matter, such as the water tank 
of a toilet, inside a mayonnaise jar that still has mayonnaise in it, or a paint can filled with paint. 
There are highquality 
waterproof containers on the market that will allow you to hide items in 
water (and possibly other places), but err on the side of caution. Documents, jewelry and 
electronics that become wet or permeated with chemicals or food matter may be damaged 
beyond repair in your zeal to outsmart a tenacious burglar. 
2. A jewelry box. This is a good place to store jewelry that you can afford to lose, but not your 
diamond tennis bracelet or your grandmother’s antique wedding ring. 
3. Your desk drawer, bedside drawer, or underwear drawer. Too obvious. 
4. Inside CD cases. It’s true: burglars still prefer CDs to MP3s. 
5. Inside DVD cases. DVDs and Xbox®type 
games are worth between $2 and $10 at pawn and 
shops; count on being cleaned out of your collection during a home burglary, regardless 
of the titles. 
6. A wall safe. Unless it’s highend 
and professionally installed, a wall safe can be dislodged by 
cutting the drywall seam around it, and wall safes are typically small and light enough to easily 
transport off site to be opened later. Opt for the heavier and hardertoaccess 
floor safe. 
7. Inside picture frames with false backs/interiors. These tend to be thicker than typical picture 
frames, so they’re easy to spot as a hiding place. 
8. A cookie jar. Put cookies in it, not your grocery money. 
9. An electrical item or heated area, such as a lamp base, toaster oven, or HVAC duct. You 
accidentally ignite your valuables and put your entire home at risk for a house fire. 
10. Any locked box or locking file cabinet. A box that has a lock on it will be stolen regardless of 
what’s inside, and the lock on a file cabinet can be popped out with the right tool and a little 
Other Precautions 
For valuables that you can’t hide or lock up, such as a flatscreen 
TV, stereo system, and 
computers, make sure they’re insured through your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Unless 
you invest in a home security system (and sometimes even if you do), it’s not possible to protect 
every item in your home. But you can take precautions to passwordprotect 
and GPSactivate 
laptops and smartphones so that their recovery is more likely, should they be stolen. 
Also, firearms should be properly locked in an approved gun safe that is stored out of reach for 
the safety of the home’s occupants, as well as to deter theft. 
Place a pole in the bottom track of your sliding glass patio doors so that they can’t be forced 
open wide enough to permit the entry of an intruder. Install burglarproof 
window locks that will 
allow you to leave your windows open slightly for fresh air, but not wide enough to allow a 
person to get through. 
Remember that burglary is a crime of opportunity, so don’t tempt fate by leaving any exterior 
doors unlocked (including sliding glass patio doors, and the door between the garage and the 
living area), hiding a spare house key outdoors (under the “Welcome” mat, a large potted plant, 
statuary, or a solitary or fake rock), leaving the doors to your attached garage open (even when 
you’re home), or leaving the curtains or drapes open so that your valuables are in full view of 
prowlers and passersby. Your personal safety is at risk as much as your personal property. 
Also, don’t overshare 
personal information with the world by advertising your absence from 
home on social media. When leaving on vacation, have a trusted neighbor, friend or family 
member monitor your home and bring in the newspaper, mail, and random takeout 
hung on your doorknob. Install light timers indoors, and security/motion detectors outdoors to 
illuminate your property’s exterior. And go ahead and apply security company stickers to your 
windows/doors that advertise that your home is professionally protected, even if it’s not. 
In short, do what you can to make your home a difficult, inconvenient, and timeconsuming 
target that will force a wouldbe 
burglar to move on. And do your part to keep your 
neighborhood safe by reporting suspicious activity on your street to the police. 
Window Bars 
Window bars (also called safety bars and security bars) are metal bars that are installed to 
prevent intruders from entering a building. As an unintended consequence, window bars can 
slow or prevent egress during an emergency. 
Seventy people died in a hotel fire on August 18, 2001 in the Philippines. The victims were 
trapped inside the sixstory 
hotel by window bars. 
Advantages of Window Bars 
They can prevent children from falling out of the window. 
Disadvantages of Window Bars 
Roughly 25 people die or are injured annually in fires where escape is hindered by window bars. 
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, the number of deaths caused by fire related to 
security bars is on the rise. 
The fear of burglary, theft and/or physical attack presents a greater perceived risk than the 
threat of fire. 
They are a deterrent to potential burglars. They are mostly used in groundfloor 
windows, which 
are most vulnerable to intrusion. 
They provide a sense of security to building occupants. 
They can block the exit for occupants during an emergency, such as a fire. The occupants may 
feel secure from burglary, but they have severely limited their avenues of egress. Ironically, it is 
possible for occupants to become trapped behind window bars while trying to escape from an 
intruder who has managed to enter the home. 
They can potentially block the entry point for firefighters. 
Houses equipped with window bars can potentially decrease the home’s property value. 
Window bars can make a neighborhood appear unsafe to potential home buyers. 
Requirements for a QuickRelease 
According to the 2006 International Residential Code (IRC), basements and sleeping rooms 
should have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue opening. Windows that are 
equipped with bars and which are intended for emergency egress should have a quickrelease 
mechanism installed. If a room’s egress requirements are already satisfied by another window 
or door, it is still helpful for window bars to be equipped with a quickrelease 
Where window bars are installed in windows that are part of a building’s means of egress, the 
IRC requires that they be equipped with a quickrelease 
mechanism that complies with the 
following requirements: 
Operation of the mechanism should not require special knowledge. 
In summary, window bars are valuable antiburglary 
features in residences, but they should be 
able to be easily disengaged so occupants are not trapped during an emergency. 
Safe Rooms (Panic Rooms) 
A safe room, also known as a panic room, is a fortified room that is installed in a private 
residence or business to provide a safe hiding place for inhabitants in the event of an 
Safe Rooms Around the World 
It should be accessible from the inside of the house. Although not addressed by the IRC, the 
device should not be accessible from outside the house if the window were to be broken. 
It should not require a key or combination. Likely reasons for this requirement are as follows: 
o During an emergency, occupants may become too panicked or confused to remember 
the combination or where they put the key. o Fire and smoke may prevent access to the key 
or obscure view of the lock. o Occupants may not know the combination or know where the key 
was placed. 
It should not require any special tools, such as a screwdriver. 
The mechanism should be able to be operated with relatively little force. Children and the 
elderly should be strong enough to operate the release mechanism. 
In Mexico, where kidnappings are relatively common, some people use safe rooms as an 
alternative (or a supplement) to bodyguards. 
In Israel, bulletand 
security rooms have been mandated for all new construction 
since 1992. 
Since the 1980s, every U.S. embassy has included a safe room with bulletresistant 
Perhaps the world’s largest safe room will belong to the Sultan of Brunei. The planned 100,000square 
foot room will be installed beneath his 1,788room, 
foot residence. 
Why are safe rooms used? Some reasons include: 
fear of an abusive spouse. 
A Brief History of Safe Rooms 
Safe rooms can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages. Castles had a "castle keep," a room 
located in the deepest part of the castle, which was designed so the feudal lord could hide 
during a siege. In the United States, safe rooms were used in the Underground Railroad during 
the 1800s, where secret rooms hid escaping slaves. In the 1920s, hidden rooms stored 
liquor. Safe rooms designed for weather protection have their origins in 
storm cellars. The features of the modern safe room are mostly derived from fallout shelters 
popular during the 1950s, which were created in response to the fear of nuclear attacks. 
Various events of the past decade have spurred a rise in the popularity of safe rooms, including 
New Year's Eve during “Y2K," the terrorist attacks in New York City in 2001, and the 
subsequent anthrax poisonings that led to fears of civil unrest and war. Yet, it was the 2002 film 
Panic Room, starring Jodie Foster, that heightened public awareness of safe rooms and their 
perceived need. In fact, the term "panic room" became the popular name for what were 
previously known as "safe rooms" as a result of the movie, although companies that create the 
rooms still prefer to call them "safe rooms." 
Today, they have become a status symbol in wealthy areas, such as Bel Air and Manhattan, 
where it is believed there are thousands of such rooms. However, it is difficult to estimate the 
number of safe rooms because many homeowners will not publicize the existence of their safe 
rooms. Even real estate agents tend to hide the location of safe rooms, or even the fact that a 
house has one, until they know a buyer is serious about purchasing the house. 
The safe room’s location must be chosen carefully. It should not be located in the basement, for 
instance, if intruders are likely to enter the house from that area. Ideally, occupants will be 
closer than the intruders to the safe room at the time that the intrusion has been detected. This 
way, the occupants will not be forced to cross paths with the intruder in order to reach the safe 
room, such as in a stairway. 
to hide from burglars. The protection of a safe room will afford residents extra time to contact 
to hide from wouldbe 
kidnappers. Many professional athletes, actors and politicians install safe 
rooms in their houses; 
protection against natural disasters, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Underground tornado 
bunkers are common in certain tornadoprone 
regions of the United States; 
protection against a nuclear attack. While safe rooms near the blast may be incinerated, those 
far away may be shielded from radioactive fallout. This type of safe room, known as a fallout 
shelter, was more common during the Cold War than it is today; 
to provide social distancing in the event of a serious disease outbreak; and 
Occupants can plan multiple routes to their safe room to avoid detection by the intruder who is 
blocking the main route. 
designs vary with budget and intended use. Even a closet can be converted into a 
rudimentary safe room, although it should have a solidcore 
door with a deadbolt lock. Highend 
custom models costing hundreds of thousands of dollars boast thick steel walls, video banks, 
computers, aircleaning 
systems, bulletproof Kevlar®, and protection against bacterial and 
chemical infiltration. 
Recommendations for specific design elements include the following: 
Generator: A selfcontained 
power system is standard in most higherend 
safe rooms. 
Items to keep in a safe room: 
Doors: These are one of the most critical components of the safe room design. A bulletresistant 
door with internal steel framing can weigh several hundred pounds, yet it must operate 
smoothly, easily, and without fail in an emergency. The hardware must be selected to provide 
substantial, secure locking without compromising the smooth operation of the door itself. Most 
importantly, it must allow the door to be secured quickly, preferably from a single control point. 
The hardware should not be capable of being overridden or tampered with from the outside. 
Floors: Concrete is an adequate material for the floor. In other forms of floor construction, such 
as wood, it is important to provide supplementary protection suitable to the anticipated type of 
emergency. As safe room construction often uses heavy materials, it is important to ensure that 
the floor can support a heavy load. 
Sound insulation: The attackers may try to verbally coerce the occupants to leave the safe 
room. Effective sound insulation will limit the ability for such unwanted communication. Also, 
sound insulation will prevent the intruders from hearing phone conversations between the 
occupant and police. 
Walls and ceilings: Wall construction that spans from floor to ceiling is generally preferred 
because of the structural continuity of the framing. Bricks and blocks, while bulletresistant, 
become dislodged from repeated sledgehammer battering. Steel stud walls, braced with 
additional reinforcing ties, can be faced with steel sheet or bulletresistant 
materials, such as 
Kevlar®. These, in turn, may be covered with tile, sheetrock or other decorative finishes. Steel 
and Kevlar® panels are available in large sheet sizes. This helps minimize the number of joints 
that can be potential weak points of an assembly. It is important to not overlook penetrations 
that may be made for light fixtures, power points and plumbing pipes. Ductwork that passes 
through protected walls should also be carefully considered to ensure that the security is not 
breached and that they are not used to transfer poisonous gases into the safe room. 
Cameras and monitors: Concealed cameras located outside the room enable its occupant to 
secretly monitor the movement and numbers of intruders. Effective camera systems may 
incorporate one visible camera outside the room so that an intruder disabling the exposed 
camera may not think to look for hidden cameras. 
Bottled water and nonperishable 
foods: There should be a small provision of bottled water and 
foods (such as dried trail mix); 
Gas masks, which may become necessary in the event that the intruders force poisonous gas 
into the safe room. Where an odorless gas might be used, an electronic device may be installed 
to detect any noxious fumes or poisons. 
In summary, safe rooms are increasingly popular rooms designed to protect occupants from 
various types of emergencies. 
Fire Safety 
Dryer Vent Safety 
Clothes dryers work by evaporating the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them 
while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or 
gas burner. Some heavygarment 
loads can contain more than a gallon of water, which, during 
the drying process, will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer and home through an 
exhaust duct, more commonly known as a dryer vent. 
Communication devices: Ideally, all three of the following devices should be stored in the safe 
o a cell phone and charger, which are convenient, but they may not operate through thick 
safe room walls. The charger will not work if no electrical receptacles are installed, so those are 
required, too; o a landline 
phone: Since cell phones may not work in a safe room, or because 
they may 
lose power, a landline 
phone is recommended. It should, however, be on a separate line from 
the rest of the house so that intruders are less likely to disable it; and o a twoway 
Blankets: Occupants may be there for a while, so they might as well be comfortable; 
First aid kit: Even if occupants make it to the safe room, they may have been injured by the 
intruder en route. It is unlikely that he will allow the occupants to reenter 
the room after they 
leave it to look for bandages; 
Prescription medication: Small quantities of necessary medications should be stored in the safe 
room, or else occupants may be forced to surrender their position during a medical emergency. 
Having a hundred cans of tuna and a flatscreen 
TV does little good if your only asthma inhaler 
is left on the kitchen table; 
Flashlights: Severe weather can knock out electricity to the house, or intruders may intentionally 
cut the power; 
Sanitation supplies: Safe rooms built on a budget often don't have a toilet. A bucket can be used 
as a lowcost 
Weapons: If the intruders manage to enter the safe room, occupants should be prepared to 
defend themselves. Pepper spray is a common choice, and firearms are certainly no less 
effective; and 
A vent that exhausts damp air to the home's exterior has a number of requirements: 
1. It should be connected. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may be beneath it. 
Look carefully to make sure it’s actually connected. 2. It should not be restricted. Dryer vents 
are often 
made from flexible plastic or metal duct, which may be easily kinked or crushed where they exit 
the dryer and enter the wall or floor. This is often a problem, since dryers tend to be tucked 
away into small areas with little room to work. Vent hardware is available which is designed to 
turn 90 degrees in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air. Air flow restrictions 
are a potential fire hazard. 3. One of the reasons that restrictions are a potential fire hazard is 
that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet laundry, the exhaust stream carries lint – 
highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton and polyester. Lint can accumulate in an 
exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates 
as heat energy within the machine. As the dryer overheats, mechanical failures can trigger 
sparks, which can cause the lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition 
can lead to a house fire. Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping 
through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the building wall. 
The Master Inspector Certification Board believes that house fires caused by dryers are far 
more common than are generally believed, a fact that can be appreciated upon reviewing 
statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency. Fires caused by dryers in 2005 were 
responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in 
property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint 
cleanup and maintenance. Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent. 
The recommendations outlined below reflect International Residential Code (IRC) “Section 
M1502 Clothes Dryer Exhaust” guidelines: 
M1502.5 Duct construction. Exhaust ducts shall be constructed of minimum 0.016inchthick 
(0.4 mm) rigid metal ducts, having smooth interior surfaces, with joints running in the direction of 
air flow. Exhaust ducts shall not be connected with sheetmetal 
screws or fastening means 
which extend into the duct. 
This means that the flexible, ribbed vents used in the past should no longer be used. They 
should be considered a potential fire hazard if discovered. 
M1502.6 Duct length. The maximum length of a clothes dryer exhaust duct shall not exceed 25 
feet from the dryer location to the wall or roof termination. The maximum length of the duct shall 
be reduced 2.5 feet for each 45degree 
bend, and 5 feet for each 90degree 
bend. The 
maximum length of the exhaust duct does not include the transition duct. 
This means that vents should also be as straight as possible and cannot be longer than 25 feet. 
Any 90degree 
turns in the vent reduce this 25foot 
limit by 5 feet, since these turns restrict air 
A couple of exceptions exist: 
1. The IRC will defer to the manufacturer’s installation instructions, so if the manufacturer’s 
recommendation permits a longer exhaust vent, that’s acceptable. 2. The IRC will allow 
bends to be installed to reduce restrictions at turns, but 
confirming compliance requires performing engineering calculations in accordance with the 
ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook. 
M1502.2 Duct termination. Exhaust ducts shall terminate on the outside of the building or shall 
be in accordance with the dryer manufacturer’s installation instructions. Exhaust ducts shall 
terminate not less than 3 feet in any direction from openings into buildings. Exhaust duct 
terminations shall be equipped with a backdraft damper. Screens shall not be installed at the 
duct termination. 
Homeowners may see many dryer vents terminate in crawlspaces or attics where they deposit 
moisture, which can encourage the growth of mold, promote wood decay, or create other 
material problems. Sometimes they will terminate just beneath attic ventilators. This is a 
defective installation. They must terminate at the exterior and away from a door or window. 
Also, a screen may be installed at the duct termination to prevent birds and other small animals 
from building nests in the protected and warm tunnel of the vent, but a screen can prevent the 
expulsion of lint, which can accumulate, along with other debris. This is an improper and 
dangerous situation, so the screen should be removed and replaced with a movable damper. 
M1502.3 Duct size. The diameter of the exhaust duct shall be as required by the clothes dryer’s 
listing and the manufacturer’s installation instructions. Look for the exhaust duct size on the data 
M1502.4 Transition ducts. Transition ducts shall not be concealed within construction. Flexible 
transition ducts used to connect the dryer to the exhaust duct system shall be limited to single 
lengths not to exceed 8 feet, and shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL2158A. 
Pilot Lights 
A pilot light is a small flame that is kept constantly lit in order to serve as an ignition source for a 
gas burner. It’s used on many natural gas and propane appliances, such as water heaters, 
clothes dryers, central heating systems, fireplaces and stoves. 
The pilot light is fueled by a small amount of gas released from the gas pipe. When the 
appliance is turned on, a valve releases more gas, which is ignited by the pilot light. The light 
may need to be relit 
from time to time after being extinguished on purpose or by accident. 
Modern alternatives to the pilot light include a highvoltage 
electric arc between two electrodes 
placed close to the gas flow, and a redhot 
surface made from silicon carbide, silicon nitride, or 
another material that can withstand prolonged heat exposure. While most commercial kitchens 
still rely on pilot lights for ovens and grills, their residential counterparts typically use electronic 
If a pilot light is accidentally extinguished, there exists a danger that the gas used to keep the 
flame lit will continue to vent, possibly into the living space. If this leak continues, its 
concentration may reach a point where a spark – such as that from a cigarette lighter, static 
electricity, or even the pilot light itself as it is being relit 
– will cause a fire or even an explosion. 
As a precaution, the flow of gas to the pilot light is maintained by electrical circuitry that relies on 
the detection of the flame by a sensor. 
Modern appliances that use pilot lights should be equipped with one or more of the following 
sensor types: 
a voltmeter, which detects the electrical current created by the heat of the flame as it warms a 
thermocouple. A thermocouple is a device that creates a voltage related to the temperature 
difference at the junction of two different metals. 
Natural gas and propane can usually be detected by a home’s occupants by their odor, which is 
added to these naturally odorless fuels specifically to alert people to a lurking danger. 
Numerous injuries have been reported, however, when homeowners have tried to relight 
a pilot 
light after the appliance’s malfunctioning sensor failed to stop the flow of gas into the room. 
Thermocouples are degraded by continued exposure to the pilot light’s flame, which increases 
their electrical resistance and reduces their effectiveness as flame sensors. Periodic testing and 
replacement of these devices will mitigate the safety hazards posed by pilot lightequipped 
While many homeowners may not be aware of the danger, a number of houses are destroyed 
every year when a pilot light ignites the explosive gases released from insecticide "bug bombs" 
and foggers. A fire erupted in a Newburgh, Ohio house after a man placed a roach fumigator 
under his kitchen sink and the fumes reached his oven’s pilot light. Even worse, when 
homeowners employ a recklessly large 
a photoresistor, 
which detects the light emitted by the pilot light; 
a thermometer, which detects the heat created by the pilot light; or 
number of these foggers, they can generate enough gas to create a catastrophic explosion, and 
the determination of homeowners driven mad by cockroaches and fleas is occasionally enough 
incentive for them to employ such overkill. In one case, 19 foggers were unleashed in a 
foot San Diego home, filling the building with so much gas that the pilot light 
destroyed the home and launched shrapnel into the street. Fortunately, foggers are typically 
used in buildings that have been vacated. However, three men were hospitalized when an 
oven's pilot light in a Thai restaurant in Perth, Australia ignited the gas released from 36 foggers 
– enough to blow the roof off the building in a massive explosion that rocked the suburban 
neighborhood, causing $500,000 in damages. 
Energy Waste 
Pilot lights are not needed for the majority of the time that they’re lit, which is how they waste a 
large amount of fuel. The exact amount of energy wasted depends on the unit, but various 
studies report that a pilot light burns $7.50 to $18 per month of natural gas, and even more for 
appliances. They waste more than 20% of the gas used in the United States, 
according to Cornell Environmental Health and Safety. A constantly burning pilot light also adds 
heat to the house, which may be convenient in the winter, but adds to the heat load in the 
summer and places an unnecessarily greater burden on the airconditioning 
system. Even in the 
winter, the appliance may be located in a utility room or other area that doesn’t require heating. 
Also, a typical pilot light can generate 450 pounds of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas over 
a sixmonth 
If an appliance isn’t needed for a long period of time, its pilot light may be extinguished to save 
energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce the risk of a fire or explosion. 
Concerned homeowners can also purchase appliances equipped with the aforementioned 
alternatives to the pilot light. If they have any additional issues or concerns related to pilot lights 
or fuelburning 
appliances, they should consult with their Certified Master Inspector® during 
their next scheduled inspection. 
In summary, pilot lights are a somewhat antiquated technology plagued by fears concerning fire 
and energy waste, but safer and more energyefficient 
alternatives are available. 
Hearths and Hearth Extensions 
A fireplace hearth is the floor area within a fireplace. It is made from noncombustible materials, 
such as brick or stone. The hearth extension is the noncombustible material in front of and at 
the sides of a fireplace opening. Hearths and hearth extensions are designed to prevent sparks 
that leave the fireplace area from igniting nearby combustibles. 
Guidelines for sufficient thickness and size of hearths and hearth extensions can be found in the 
International Phase I Standards of Practice for Inspecting Fireplaces and Chimneys and in the 
manufacturer’s instructions. 
The following guidelines are from the International Phase I Standards of Practice for Inspecting 
Fireplaces and Chimneys, which are also useful for homeowners to know: 
The inspector should inspect the hearth, hearth extension, and chambers for joint separation, 
damage and deterioration. 
The 2006 International Residential Code (IRC) offers the following exception to the 2 inchthick 
rule: When the bottom of the firebox opening is raised at least 8 inches above the top of the 
hearth extension, a hearth extension of not less than 3/8inch 
thick brick, concrete, stone, tile, or 
other approved noncombustible material is permitted. 
Homeowners should note that carpet or tile may obscure the hearth extension so that it may be 
difficult to tell how thick it is. 
In summary, hearths and hearth extensions are noncombustible surfaces designed to prevent 
fires from spreading beyond the fireplace. If they are not large and thick enough, they might not 
be sufficient to prevent the spread of fire. 
Holiday Safety 
The winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more cooking, home decorating, 
entertaining, and an increased risk of fire and accidents. The Master Inspector Certification 
Board recommends that you follow these guidelines to help make your winter holiday season 
safer and more enjoyable. 
The inspector should inspect for hearth extensions that have a thickness of less than 2 inches. 
The inspector should inspect for hearth extensions that are less than 16 inches in front or less 
than 8 inches beyond each side of fireplace openings that are 6 square feet or less. 
The inspector should inspect for hearth extensions that are less than 20 inches in front or less 
than 12 inches beyond each side of fireplace openings that are greater than 6 square feet. 
Holiday Lighting 
Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a 
Avoid trimmings that resemble candy and food that may tempt a young child to put them in his 
Holiday Entertaining 
Use caution with holiday decorations and, whenever possible, choose those made with flameresistant, 
and noncombustible 
Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials, and do not use candles 
to decorate Christmas trees. 
Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings, and replace damaged items before 
plugging lights in. If you have any questions about electrical safety, ask your Certified Master 
Inspector® during your next scheduled inspection. 
Do not overload extension cords. 
Don't mount lights in any way that can damage the cord's wire insulation. To hold lights in place, 
string them through hooks or insulated staplesdon't 
use nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights 
to remove them. 
Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations. 
Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from 
faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted. 
Before using lights outdoors, check their labels to be sure they have been certified or ULListed 
for outdoor use. 
Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets, or loose 
Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with groundfault 
circuit interrupters to avoid 
potential shocks. 
Use only noncombustible 
and flameresistant 
materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel and 
artificial icicles of plastic and nonleaded 
Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use nonflammable 
holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down. 
In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp and 
breakable, and keep trimmings with small removable parts out of their reach. 
Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. When cooking for holiday 
visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range. 
Provide plenty of large, deep ashtrays, and check them frequently. Cigarette butts can smolder 
in the trash and cause a fire, so completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding. 
Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and out of reach of children (preferably in a 
locked cabinet). 
Test your smoke alarms, and let guests know what your fire escape plan is. 
Make sure the base is steady so the tree won't tip over. 
Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly 
and burn intensely. 
Toys and Ornaments 
Place older ornaments and decorations that might be painted with lead paint out of the reach of 
small children and pets. 
Children and Pets 
When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "fireresistant." 
When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull 
from their branches, and when bent between your fingers, they will not break. 
When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators and portable heaters. 
Also, place the tree out of the way of foot traffic, and don’t block any doorways. 
Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water 
absorption, which will help keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard. 
Be sure to keep the tree stand filled with water. Heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly. 
Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from the 
fireplace area. Check to see that the flue is open. 
Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They 
contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. 
Purchase ageappropriate 
toys for children. Some toys designed for older children may be 
dangerous for younger children. 
Electric toys should be ULListed 
and approved. 
Toys with sharp points, sharp edges, strings, cords, and parts small enough to be swallowed 
should not be given to small children. 
Poinsettias are known to be poisonous to humans and animals, so keep them well out of reach, 
or avoid having them in the house. 
Keep decorations at least 6 inches above the child’s reach. 
Avoid using tinsel. It can fall on the floor and a curious child or pet may eat it. This can cause 
anything from mild distress to death. 
Make sure that any ribbons on gifts and tree ornaments are shorter than 7 inches. A child could 
wrap a longer strand of ribbon around his neck and choke. 
Avoid mittens with strings for children. The string can get tangled around the child’s neck and 
cause him to choke. Use clips instead. It’s easier to replace a mitten than a child. 
Watch children and pets around space heaters or the fireplace. Never leave a child or a 
rambunctious pet unattended. 
Inspect wrapped gifts for small decorations, such as candy canes, gingerbread men, and 
mistletoe berries, all of which are choking hazards. 
Have a trusted friend or neighbor keep an eye on your home. 
A firestop is a passive fireprotection 
method designed to reduce the opportunity for fire to 
spread through unprotected openings in a rated firewall. Such openings are found around the 
perimeter of pipes and wiring that penetrate firewalls. 
Places where firestops are required: 
Firestops must seal all unprotected openings in firewalls. In homes, firewalls are found in the 
following locations: 
firewalls that separate condominium units are often penetrated by utilities that serve multiple 
units. These utilities are sometimes contained inside chases that should be sealed where they 
pass through the firewall between units. Firewalls between units must be continuous, all the way 
to the roof. Homeowners should have their CMI check in attics of multifamily 
dwellings to make 
sure that the firewall has not been violated in the attic space. 
Common Problems with Firestops 
Homeowners should look for any instances where firestops are missing, damaged, or otherwise 
inadequate. Some descriptions of firestop deficiencies are as follows: 
Store scissors and any sharp objects that you use to wrap presents out of your child’s reach. 
Activate your home’s burglar alarm system. 
If you plan to travel for the holidays, don’t discuss your plans with strangers or on social media. 
between the garage and the living space, including the overhead ceiling; 
between the attic and the living space. Homeowners should be on the lookout for fireplace and 
wood stove flues that lack adequate firerated 
sheetrock or metal flashing firestopping; 
Missing firestop: Unsealed pipe penetrations will greatly reduce the ability for a firewall to 
contain a fire. This situation is more common in old buildings than in new ones due to changes 
in building code. 
Cable or pipe replacement: Electricians and plumbers may partially remove a firestop in order to 
install new cables and plumbing. A firewall’s fireresistance 
rating will be compromised if the 
opening created by this removal is not filled. 
Improper installation: Firestops will be effective only if they are installed correctly. For instance, 
firestop mortars are sometimes smeared into place unevenly and lack the required thickness at 
certain points. Also, firestops that are installed on only one side of a penetration may not be 
sufficient to prevent the spread of fire through the opening. 
Common Firestop Materials 
In summary, firestops are designed to prevent the spread of fire through unprotected openings 
in rated firewalls. 
Clothes Closet Lighting 
People don’t often think about the fire risks posed by the light in their clothes closet, but it’s one 
of the few places in the house where a source of high heat can get too close to flammable 
materials. Lighting must be installed safely with adequate separation from clothes, boxes and 
other flammables stored in the closet. Additionally, the quality of the light, as well as bulb 
efficiency, will influence your lighting choices. 
The 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) on "Permitted Luminaires and Clearance 
from Clothing" 
The IRC defines a "luminaire" as follows: a complete lighting unit consisting of a lamp or lamps, 
together with the parts designed to 
Firestop mortar: Cements made from lightweight aggregates, such as vermiculite or perlite, can 
be used as firestopping. They are typically colored to distinguish them from other types of 
cement that lack firestopping characteristics. For example, firestopping mortar made by Nelson 
is colored red, and 3MTM Fire Barrier Mortar is bluishgray. 
Intumescent: Any substance that expands as a result of heat exposure is considered an 
intumescent. Intumscents used as firestops can be made from a variety of flameretardant 
materials, such as graphite, hydrates, and sodium silicates. They are especially useful 
firestopping materials for electrical cables, which can completely melt or burn away in a fire. The 
expanding intumescent will partially or completely cover the exposed opening created by a 
melted wire. 
Firestop pillows: These items contain various flameretardant 
and intumescent substances, such 
as rockwool and graphite. They are filled loosely inside of a fiberglass fabric case that 
resembles a small pillow. Firestop pillows can be inserted into openings in firewalls and used in 
conjunction with other firestopping materials. 
Sheet metal. 
distribute the light, to position and protect the lamps and ballast (where applicable), and to 
connect the lamps to the power supply. 
Types of luminaires permitted by the 2009 IRC include: 
fluorescent or LED luminaires identified as suitable for installation within the 
storage area. 
Luminaires not permitted by the 2009 IRC: 
Incandescent luminaires with open or partially enclosed lamps and pendant luminaires or lampholders 
are prohibited. 
Clearances permitted by the 2009 IRC: 
The minimum distance between luminaires installed in clothes closets and the nearest point of a 
storage area shall be as follows: 
1. Surfacemounted 
incandescent or LED luminaires with a completely enclosed light source 
be installed on a wall above the door or on the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum 
clearance of 12 inches between the fixture and the nearest point of a storage space. 2. 
fluorescent luminaires shall be installed on the wall above the door or on the 
ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 6 inches. 3. Recessed incandescent 
luminaires or LED luminaires with a completely enclosed light source 
shall be installed in the wall or the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 6 
inches. 4. Recessed fluorescent luminaires shall be installed in the wall or on the ceiling, 
provided that 
there is a minimum clearance of 6 inches between the fixture and the nearest point of storage 
space. 5. Surfacemounted 
fluorescent or LED luminaires shall be permitted to be installed 
within the 
storage space where identified within this use. 
Also, metal pull chains may be dangerous; if the base cracks, the chain can become electrified. 
Color Rendering Index (CRI) 
CRI is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of various 
objects faithfully, in comparison with an ideal or natural light source. The closer the CRI of a 
lamp is to 100, the more "true" it renders colors in the environment. Poor CRI is the reason that 
a shirt and pants that seemed to match at home now clash in the restroom at work. For clothes 
closets lighting, the CRI should be as high as possible. Incandescent lights are inefficient but 
they have a CRI of 100, making them the most aesthetic lighting choice. Compact fluorescents 
lights (CFLs) are far more efficient and have a longer life than incandescent bulbs, but they 
have a CRI in the low 60s, making them a poor choice for 
or recessed incandescent luminaires with completely enclosed lamps, surfacemounted 
or recessed fluorescent luminaires; and 
clothes closet applications. Lowvoltage 
halogen and LED lights are relatively efficient, 
and have a high CRI, although not as high as incandescent bulbs. 
In summary, homeowners should replace lighting in their clothes closets if the light has the 
potential to ignite flammable materials in the closet. 
Barbeque Safety 
During barbeque season, homeowners should heed the following safety precautions in order to 
keep their families and property safe. 
1. Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard, as the Consumer Product Safety 
Commission (CPSC) is aware of more than 500 fires that result annually from their misuse or 
malfunction. The following precautions are recommended specifically when using propane grills: 
a. Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source. In 
addition, never store or transport them in your car’s trunk. b. Make sure to completely turn 
off the gas after you have finished, or when you are 
changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion. c. Check for 
damage to the tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable 
suppliers. d. Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is 
and illegal. e. No more than two 20pound 
propane tanks are allowed on the property of a 
home. f. To check for a leak, spray a soapy solution over the connections and 
watch for bubbles. 
If you see evidence of a leak, reconnect the components and try again. If bubbles persist, 
replace the leaking parts before using the grill. g. Make sure connections are secure before 
turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t 
been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the 
barbeque season. h. Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can 
accumulate beneath a 
closed lid and explode. i. When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This 
way, residual gas in the 
pipe will be used up. 
2. Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). 
CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills. 
These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal 
a. Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and 
odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late. b. Use only barbeque 
starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame 
to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you're holding it. c. Let the fluid soak into the 
coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive 
vapors to dissipate. 
d. Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of 
clearance from the building and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 
gallons of water). e. Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting 
the grill. Keep 
the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill. f. When cleaning the grill, 
dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and 
add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled. g. Fill the base of the grill with 
charcoal to a depth of no more than 2 inches. 
3. Electric grills are probably safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need 
be used with them, as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills: a. Do not use lighter fluid 
or any other combustible materials. b. When using an extension cord, make sure it’s rated for 
the amperage required by the 
grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use and kept out of a busy foot path to prevent 
tripping. c. As always, follow the manufacturer's instructions. 
Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use: 
Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable! 
In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can 
harm life and property in numerous ways. 
Kerosene Heaters 
A kerosene heater, also known as a paraffin heater, is a portable, unvented heating appliance 
that runs on the controlled burning of kerosene. In the U.S., it is used mainly for supplemental 
heating and for emergency heat during a power outage. In Japan and other countries, it is used 
as the primary source for home heating. 
Always make sure that the grill is used in a safe place where kids and pets won't touch or bump 
into it. Keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking, and anyone coming into 
contact with it could be burned. 
If you use a grill lighter, make sure you don't leave it lying around where children can reach it. 
They will quickly learn how to use it. 
Never leave the grill unattended, as this is generally when accidents happen. 
Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby. 
Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage. 
Ensure that the grill is only used on a flat surface that cannot burn, and well away from any 
fencing, shed, trees and shrubs. 
Clean out the grease and other debris in the grill periodically. Be sure to look for rust and other 
signs of deterioration. 
Don't wear loose clothing that might catch fire while you're cooking. 
Use longhandled 
barbecue tools and flameresistant 
oven mitts. 
Kerosene burners operate in a manner similar to kerosene lamps: a fabric wick draws kerosene 
from a tank via capillary action into a burning chamber mounted above. Once lit, the wick warms 
nearby objects through radiation and convection. The user may control the burner’s heat by 
raising or lowering the wick's height inside the burning chamber. The heater is turned off by fully 
withdrawing the exposed wick into a cavity beneath the burner. 
Kerosene heaters are favored for their portability, efficiency, and lack of reliance on electricity. 
They also lack a pressurefed 
fuel system, which is a significant safety advantage over standard 
heating systems. 
However, the following problems plague kerosene heaters: 
Fire hazard. Highly flammable liquids are burned within the living space, creating vulnerability to 
mechanical and humancaused 
The aforementioned safety concerns can be addressed by inspecting for the presence of the 
following safety design features: 
Odor. While newer kerosene heaters do not present as much of a problem, all such heaters 
emit a smell when they are being fueled. Odors typically cease after the heater begins burning 
normally. If the odor does not dissipate, the cause may be because the wick may be too thin for 
the heating unit, allowing kerosene vapors to pass through the wick gap and vent into the room. 
Odors and excess smoke may also result from the combustion of lowgrade 
fuel or 
contaminated kerosene. 
Inadequate ventilation. Kerosene heaters, like ventless fireplaces, vent soot, sulfur dioxide, 
carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide directly into the living space. In modern wellinsulated 
homes, an improperly adjusted, improperly fueled, or poorly maintained kerosene heater can 
pose a serious health hazard. 
an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) seal, guaranteeing that it has passed certain safety 
a pushbutton, 
automatic starter, which eliminates the need for matches; 
a low center of gravity, which makes accidentally tipping the burner over less likely; 
an automatic cutoff 
device to turn the heater off in case it is tipped over. This device also 
prevents kerosene from spilling during a tipover; 
a grille attached to the front to prevent contact burns; 
placement of the heater on a large, fireproof surface; 
a model that is equipped with a wick this 
makes flooding of the burner impossible; 
all components made from heavy, durable metal; 
a sturdy fuel tank, sealed and installed beneath the burner; and 
a fuel gauge to prevent inadvertent overfueling. 
Never move or carry the heater in the event of an explosion or flareup. 
In an emergency, 
activate the manual shutoff 
switch, if the heater has one. 
In summary, kerosene heaters are attractive alternatives to standard heating systems, although 
they present certain health and safety concerns if improperly designed or operated. 
Attached Garage Fire Containment 
An attached garage is a garage that is physically attached to a house. Fires that begin in 
attached garages are more likely to spread to living areas than fires that originate in detached 
garages. For this reason, combined with the multitude of flammable materials commonly found 
in garages, attached garages should be adequately sealed from living areas. A properly sealed 
attached garage will ideally restrict the potential spread of fire long enough to allow the 
occupants time to escape the home or building. 
Why are garages (both attached and detached) fire hazards? 
Burn only waterclear, 
K1 kerosene that is not yellow or contaminated. While other grades of 
kerosene may look like K1, they will release more pollutants into the home. Never burn gasoline 
or any other flammable liquids, as they dramatically increase the risk of fire or explosion. 
Do not use a kerosene heater in areas where explosive vapors may be present, such as in a 
Always store kerosene in a container intended for kerosene and marked as such, and never in a 
can that previously contained gasoline. Gasoline containers are typically red, while kerosene 
containers are usually blue. The container should have a tightfitting 
lid to avoid spills. Do not 
store large amounts of kerosene or any other flammable liquid. 
Never bring kerosene into the house other than the fuel in the heater, which should be filled 
outdoors after the heater has cooled down. 
Maintain a safe clearance between the heater and furniture, drapes, and other combustibles. 
Do not place the heater in a hightraffic 
area or in the way of an exit. 
Instruct children to never touch the controls, and keep children and pets away from the heater at 
all times. 
Do not let the heater operate while the house is empty. 
Ventilate the room by opening a door or window. 
Oil or gasoline can drip from cars. These fluids may collect unnoticed and eventually ignite. 
Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, oil and paint, are commonly stored in garages. Some 
other examples are brake fluid, degreaser, motor oil, varnish, lighter fluid, and fluids containing 
solvents, such as paint thinner. These chemicals are flammable in their fluid form, and some 
may create explosive vapors. 
Heaters and boilers, which are frequently installed in garages, create sparks that can ignite 
fumes or fluids. Car batteries, too, will spark under certain conditions. 
Mechanical or electrical building projects are often undertaken in the garage. Fires can easily 
start while a careless person is welding near flammable materials. 
The 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) states the following concerning 
doors that separate garages from living areas: 
R309.1. Opening Penetration: Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for 
sleeping purposes shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and the 
residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 13/
8 inches in thickness, solidor 
steel doors not less than 13/
8 inches thick, or 20minute 
In addition, homeowners can check for the following while inspecting the door that separates 
their garage from the living areas: 
Pet doors should not be installed in firerated 
doors. Pet doors violate the integrity of a fire 
Walls and Ceilings 
The 2006 edition of the IRC states the following concerning garage walls and ceilings: 
R309.2. Separation Required: The garage shall be separated from the residence and its attic 
area by not less than 1/2inch 
gypsum board applied to the garage side. Garages beneath 
habitable rooms shall be separated from all habitable rooms above by not less than 5/8inch 
Type X gypsum board or equivalent. Where the separation is a floorceiling 
assembly, the 
structure supporting the separation shall also be protected by not less than 1/2inch 
board or equivalent. Garages located less than 3 feet from a dwelling unit on the same lot shall 
be protected with not less than 1/2inch 
gypsum board applied to the interior side of exterior 
walls that are within this area. Openings in these walls shall be regulated by Section 309.1. This 
provision does not apply to garage walls that are perpendicular to the adjacent dwelling unit 
While not required by the IRC, it is helpful if there is at least one step leading up to the door 
from the garage. Gasoline fumes and other explosive gases are heavier than air, and they will 
accumulate at ground level. Their entry beneath a door will be slowed by an elevation increase. 
Doors should have tight seals around their joints to prevent seepage of fumes into the living 
areas of the house. Carbon monoxide, with the same approximate density as air (and often 
warmer than surrounding air), will easily rise above the base of an elevated door and leak 
through unsealed joints. 
Doors should be selfclosing. 
Many homeowners find these doors inconvenient, but they are 
safer than doors that can be left ajar. While this requirement is no longer listed in the IRC, it is 
still a valuable recommendation. 
If the doors have windows, the glass should be firerated. 
In addition, homeowners can check for the following while inspecting walls and ceilings: 
Drywall joints should be taped or sealed. Joints should be fitted so that the gap is no more than 
with joints backed by either solid wood or another layer of drywall such that the joints 
are staggered. 
The 2006 edition of the IRC states the following concerning ducts that penetrate garage walls 
and ceilings: 
R309.1.1. Duct Penetration Ducts in the garage and ducts penetrating the walls or ceilings 
separating the dwelling from the garage shall be constructed of a minimum No. 26gauge 
sheet or other approved material, and shall have no openings in the garage. 
Dryer exhaust ducts that penetrate garage walls are serious fire hazards. These ducts are 
generally made from plastic and will easily melt during a fire, creating a large breach in the 
The 2006 edition of the IRC states the following concerning floors in garages: 
R309.3. Floor Surface Garage floor surfaces shall be of approved, noncombustible 
The area of the floor used for parking of automobiles or other vehicles shall be sloped to 
facilitate the movement of liquids to a drain or toward the main vehicle entry doorway. 
In garages that have access to the attic, a hatch cover made from an approved, firerated 
material should protect this access at all times. Missing or opened covers should be noted, as 
should covers made from flammable materials, such as thin plywood. Garage attic doors must 
be constructed such that the 45minute 
rating is maintained; any drywall edges on both the 
hatch and the surrounding area exposed to physical damage are protected. The cover or door is 
installed so that it is permanent (nonremovable) 
with hardware to maintain it in a closed 
position and with latching hardware to maintain it in a closed position. This could be 
accomplished by the use of springloaded 
hinges, a door closer, or hardware that will not allow it 
to be left in an open position when not in use. A single bolttype 
or hookandeye 
hardware does 
not provide a positive closure, since these would allow the door to be left open. Likewise, 
drywall screws are "fasteners" and not hardware, so they cannot be used as the only means of 
keeping access doors closed. 
The living space is separated from the garage by a firewall that extends from the floor to the 
roof. If the ceiling material is firerated, 
the firewall can terminate at the ceiling. 
Homeowners may also want to check for the following: 
Water heaters should be elevated above the floor by at least 18 inches. A pilot light may ignite 
spilled fluid or floorlevel 
flammable fumes if the water heater is placed at floor level. 
Concerning items placed on the floor, homeowners should check for the following: 
The floor should be clear of clutter. Loose papers, matches, oily rags, and other flammable 
items are dangerous if they are strewn about the garage floor. 
General Safety Tips for Attached Garages: 
Tape down all cords and wires so that they’re not twisted or accidentally yanked out of the 
In summary, attached garages should be sealed off from the living space so that fire may be 
A room must conform to specific requirements in order for it to be considered a bedroom or 
sleeping room. The reason for this law is that the inhabitant must be able to quickly escape in 
case of a fire or other emergency. 
Why would a homeowner use a nonconforming 
room as a bedroom? 
A curb is present along the perimeter of the garage floor. This curb is designed to prevent fluids 
from entering the living areas of the house. Curbs are often useful barriers for melted snow 
carried into the garage by automobiles, but curbs can also keep chemical spills contained in the 
All flammable liquids are stored in clearly labeled, selfclosing 
containers, and in small amounts. 
They should be stored away from heaters, appliances, pilot lights, and other sources of heat 
and flame. 
Propane tanks should never be stored indoors. If they catch fire, a serious explosion may result. 
Propane tanks are sturdy enough to be stored outdoors. 
Use light bulbs with the proper wattage. 
Do not overload electrical outlets. 
Some of the reasons include: 
lack of knowledge of code requirements. To the untrained eye, there is little obvious difference 
between a conforming bedroom and nonconforming 
bedroom. When an emergency happens, 
however, the difference will be more apparent. If you have any questions about safety 
requirements, ask your Certified Master Inspector® during your next scheduled inspection. 
Homeowners run serious risks when they use a nonconforming 
room as a bedroom. An 
embittered tenant, for instance, may bring their landlord to court, especially if the tenant was 
forced out when the faux bedroom was exposed. The landlord, upon being exposed, might 
choose to adjust the bedroom to make it codecompliant, 
but this can cost thousands of dollars. 
Landlords can also be sued if they sell the home after having advertised it as having more 
bedrooms than it actually has. And the owner might pay more than they should be paying in 
property taxes if they incorrectly list a nonconforming 
bedroom as a bedroom. Perhaps the 
greatest risk posed by rooms that unlawfully serve as bedrooms stems from the reason these 
laws exist in the first place: rooms lacking egress can be deadly in case of an emergency. For 
instance, in January 2002, four family members sleeping in the basement of a Gaithersburg, 
Maryland townhome were killed by a blaze when they had no easy escape. 
The following requirements are taken from the 2006 International Residential Code (IRC), and 
they can be used as a general guide, but bear in mind that the local municipality determines the 
legal definition of a bedroom. Such local regulations can vary widely among municipalities, and 
what qualifies as a bedroom in one city might be more properly called a den in a nearby city. In 
some municipalities, the room must be above grade and equipped with an AFCI or smoke alarm 
to be considered a conforming bedroom. Ceiling height and natural lighting may also be factors. 
The issue can be extremely complex, so it’s best to learn the code requirements for your area. 
Nevertheless, the IRC can be useful, and it reads as follows: 
to earn money from it as a rental. While they run the risk of being discovered by the city, 
landlords can profit by renting out rooms that are not legally considered bedrooms; 
to increase the value of the home. All other considerations being equal, a fourbedroom 
will usually sell for more than a threebedroom 
house; and 
sleeping room shall have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue opening. Such 
opening shall open directly into a public street, public alley, yard or court. Where basements 
contain one or more sleeping rooms, emergency egress and rescue openings shall be required 
in each sleeping room, but shall not be required in adjoining areas of the basement. Where 
emergency escape and rescue openings are provided, they shall have a sill height of not more 
than 44 inches above the floor. Where a door opening having a threshold below the adjacent 
ground elevation serves as an emergency escape and rescue opening and is provided with a 
bulkhead enclosure, the bulkhead enclosure shall comply with SECTION R310.3. The net clear 
opening dimensions required by this section shall be obtained by the normal operation of the 
emergency escape and rescue opening from the inside. Emergency escape and rescue 
openings with a finished sill height below the adjacent ground elevation shall be provided with a 
window well, in accordance with SECTION R310.2. 
o MINIMUM OPENING AREA: SECTION: R 310.1.1. All emergency escape and rescue 
openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet. Exception: Grade floor 
openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5 square feet. 
Emergency escape windows are allowed to be installed under decks and porches, provided the 
location of the deck allows the emergency escape window to be fully opened and provides a 
path not less than 36 inches in height to a yard or court. 
In summary, nonconforming 
bedrooms are rooms that unlawfully serve as bedrooms, as the 
occupant would lack an easy escape in case of emergency. 
Window Wells 
A window well is a semicircular 
excavation that surrounds a basement window. It is typically 
constructed from a solid barrier made from corrugated galvanized metal, masonry, plastic, or 
WINDOW WELLS: SECTION R310.2. The minimum horizontal area of the window well shall be 
9 square feet, with a minimum horizontal projection and width of 36 inches. The area of the 
window well shall allow the emergency escape and rescue opening to be fully opened. 
Exception: The ladder or steps required by SECTION R 310.2.1 shall be permitted to encroach 
a maximum of 6 inches into the required dimensions of the window well. 
LADDER AND STEPS: SECTION R 310.2.1. Window wells with a vertical depth greater than 44 
inches shall be equipped with a permanently affixed ladder or steps usable with the window in 
the fully open position. Ladders or steps required by this section shall not be required to comply 
with SECTIONS R311.5 or R311.6. Ladders or rungs shall have an inside width of at least 12 
inches, shall project at least 3 inches from the wall, and shall be spaced not more than 18 
inches oncenter 
vertically for the full height of the window well. 
BULKHEAD ENCLOSURES: SECTION R 310.3. Bulkhead enclosures shall provide direct 
access to the basement. The bulkhead enclosure with the door panels in the fully open position 
shall provide the minimum net clear opening required by SECTION R 310.1.1. Bulkhead 
enclosures shall also comply with SECTION R 311.5.8.2. 
BARS, GRILLES, COVERS AND SCREENS: SECTION R 310.3. Bars, grilles, covers, screens 
and similar devices are permitted to be placed over emergency escape and rescue openings, 
bulkhead enclosures, and window wells that serve such openings, provided the minimum net 
clear opening size complies with SECTIONS R 310.1.1 to R 310.1.3, and such devices shall be 
releasable or removable from the inside without the use of a key, tool, special knowledge, or 
force greater than that which is required for normal operation of the escape and rescue opening. 
o MINIMUM OPENING HEIGHT: R 310.1.2. The minimum net clear opening height shall be 
24 inches. o MINIMUM OPENING WIDTH: R 310.1.3. The minimum net clear opening width 
shall be 
20 inches. o OPERATIONAL CONSTRAINTS: R 310.1.4. Emergency escape and rescue 
openings shall be 
operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys or tools or special knowledge. 
Window wells are usually installed for the following purposes: 
to allow sunlight into a belowgrade 
room that would otherwise rely solely on artificial lighting. 
Window wells are often covered to prevent falls, as well as to discourage small children, pets 
and wild animals from entering the wells and becoming trapped. For instance, a deer fawn 
made the news in Utah after it was recovered safely after falling down a 12footdeep 
window well. Covers will also prevent the accumulation of twigs, grass, mulch, and blowing 
snow that would obscure sunlight and complicate emergency escape through the well. Covers 
may be locked from the inside to prevent unwanted intrusion. 
Window well covers, however, can block sunlight, ventilation, and emergency egress, especially 
if they become covered with snow and ice. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to make sure 
that the cover is cleared of snow and has not been frozen shut from ice. No items, such as 
garden hoses, potted plants or tools, should be placed on top of window well covers. Note that 
covers that are locked from the inside to prevent unlawful entry will be inaccessible to fire crews 
and firstresponders. 
Regarding their strength and operability, the 2007 edition of the International Code Council 
(ICC), Section 3.4, states that window well covers shall support “a minimum live load of 40 
pounds per square foot. The cover shall be operable from within the window well without the 
use of tools or special knowledge, and shall require no more than 30 pounds of force to fully 
Additional safety concerns include the following: 
Size. According to the 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC), Section R310: 
The minimum horizontal area of the window well shall be 9 square feet, with a minimum 
horizontal projection and width of 36 inches. 
Even if the well seems large enough for members of a particular household, it might be a tight fit 
for a fully equipped firefighter. 
Structural damage to the barrier. Hydrostatic pressure and freezethaw 
cycles can exert a great 
deal of pressure on window wells and, over time, cause masonry to bend or crack. Check for: 
emergency egress. If the window serves a living area as 
opposed to an unfinished basement 
with exposed utilities emergency 
escape at a minimum of two locations is required. Window 
wells allow windows to be used by escaping occupants and emergency crews attempting to 
enter the house; 
to prevent moisture damage to basement windows that are at or below grade. The window wells 
keep the soil away from openings in the foundation walls while still allowing proper grading and 
drainage away from the house; and 
spalling, bowing, cracking or leaning in concrete; 
cracking or bowing in plastic; 
rust, bowing or ruptures in metal; and 
insect damage or cracks in wood. 
Lack of a ladder. The 2006 IRC, Section 310.2, states: 
Window wells with a vertical depth greater than 44 inches shall be equipped with a permanently 
affixed ladder or steps usable with the window in the fully open position. 
Additional Tips for Homeowners 
Consult with your Certified Master Inspector® if you have additional concerns regarding window 
wells, covers, moisture problems, or emergency egress. 
In summary, window wells are installed to allow emergency egress and to protect windows from 
damp soil, but improper installation and maintenance can lead to moisture damage and safety 
hazards, especially in an emergency. 
Fire Extinguishers 
Fire extinguishers are devices commonly found indoors and are used to douse fire and prevent 
its spread. They are small metal canisters that contain compressed gas (usually nitrogen) that, 
when activated, propel a directed spray of flameretardant 
chemicals. Fire extinguishers are 
effective only if the users understand where and why they are used. 
Fire Type 
Fire extinguishers are distinguished based on the types of fires on which they are effective. 
These fires are classified by their fuel source and assigned identifying letters as follows: 
Improper drainage. Waterlogged window wells can easily leak through a window into the 
basement, especially following a heavy rain. Water intrusion can cause a variety of undesirable 
conditions, such as mold growth, wood decay, corrosion, and insect damage. Check for a lack 
of sufficient cleaning and maintenance both in the window well and elsewhere. Homeowners 
should first make sure that gutters and downspouts are clear of debris, which can force water to 
overflow from the gutters and collect in the window well and other low areas. Dirt and debris 
should also be collected from the well. A qualified professional may be required to correct 
structural sources of drainage issues, such as soil erosion, insufficient or settled drainage stone, 
or the pulling away from the foundation of the barrier. 
Window well covers can be screened or barred to provide pestfree 
Teach children to avoid window wells, even if they are covered and appear sturdy. 
Practice exiting the window, window well and window cover so that any previously unnoticed 
obstacles can be removed. Repair or replace any equipment that does not function properly. 
Speak with your local building department if you are unsure whether a window well is required in 
your home. Your jurisdiction may mandate special size restrictions. 
Metal window wells can have rolled edges for safety against cuts. 
K class: These types of fires consume vegetable oils and animal fats, and generally happen in 
NOTE: Although, technically, the letter rankings listed above refer to fire types, these symbols 
can also be used to identify the extinguishers themselves. For instance, an extinguisher that 
uses CO 
can be 
called a “CO 
extinguisher” or a “BC extinguisher." 
Extinguisher Types 
No fire extinguisher can be safely and effectively used for every type of fire. Some contain 
chemicals that are ineffective in certain situations and can even cause harm to the operator if 
misapplied. To prevent confusion, extinguishers are classified by the type of chemical agents 
they contain. 
A few of the most common extinguisher types are listed below: 
A class: fires that result from ordinary combustibles, such as wood and paper. 
B class: fires that result from combustible liquids, such as kerosene, gasoline, oil and grease. 
C class: fires of an electrical nature. These result from the combustion of circuit breakers, wires, 
outlets, and other electrical devices and equipment. Extinguishers designed to handle this type 
of fire cannot use chemicals that are conductive, since conductive agents increase the risk of 
electric shock to the operator. 
D class: fires resulting from combustible metals, such as sodium, potassium, titanium and 
magnesium. These fires occur mostly in chemical laboratories and are rare in most other 
Dry Chemical: There are two types of fire extinguishers that use a dry chemical. One is called 
dry chemical and uses ammonium phosphate as the extinguishing agent, which is 
effective on A, B, and C class fires. This chemical is corrosive and must be scrubbed from 
surfaces after use. These types of extinguishers are very common and are found in schools, 
homes, hospitals and offices. Sodium bicarbonate is used in extinguishers known as regular dry 
chemical, which are capable of handling B and C class fires. These extinguishers are found in 
garages, kitchens and laboratories. Sodium bicarbonate is easy to clean and nontoxic. 
that Carbon Dioxide: These extinguishers contain liquid CO 
is expelled as a gas. They are effective 
against B and C class fires. Unlike other chemicals, CO 
does not leave a harmful residue and 
is environmentally friendly. 
Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers: These devices are designed to combat K class fires and 
commonly use potassium acetate. They are appropriately employed in commercial kitchens and 
restaurants, especially around deep fryers. The chemical is emitted as a fine mist that does not 
cause grease to splash onto other surfaces. They can also be used in A class fires. 
Extinguisher Testing and Replacement 
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends that extinguishers be tested every 
five or 12 years, depending on the type. The standard method of testing—hydrostatic—is 
conducted underwater where the cylinders are subjected to pressures that exceed their ratings. 
Vessels that fail the test are condemned and destroyed, while the rest are reassembled and put 
back into service. 
According to the NFPA, extinguishers should be destroyed if any of the following conditions are 
present (and they should not be tested): 
a. if repairs by soldering, welding, 
brazing, or the use of patching compounds exist; b. if the cylinder threads are worn, 
corroded, broken, cracked or nicked; c. if there is corrosion that has caused pitting, including 
pitting under a removable nameplate or name band assembly; d. if the fire extinguisher has 
been burned in a fire; e. if a calcium chloridetype 
of extinguisher agent was used in a stainless 
steel fire extinguisher; f. if the shell is of copper or brass construction joined by soft solder or 
rivets; g. if the depth of a dent exceeds 1/10 of the greatest dimension of the dent if not in a 
weld, or exceeds 
if the dent includes a weld; h. if any local or general corrosion, cuts, gouges or dings 
have removed more than 10% of the 
minimum cylinder wall thickness; and/or i. if the fire extinguisher has been used for any 
purpose other than that of a fire extinguisher. 
It also poses very little danger to electronics and is effectively employed in laboratories, 
computer rooms, and other areas with sensitive equipment. 
Water Extinguishers: These extinguishers are most suited for A class fires. However, they 
cannot be used in B, C or D class fires. In B and D class fires, the water will spread the flames. 
In a C class fire, the water is conductive and poses a risk of electric shock to the operator. 
However, the misting nozzle of a water mist extinguisher breaks up the stream of deionized 
water so that there is no conductive path back to the operator. Since the agent used is water, 
these types of extinguishers are inexpensive and environmentally friendly. 
When should a fire extinguisher be used? 
Small fires can be controlled through the use of household or commercial fire extinguishers. A 
household extinguisher can often completely douse a very small fire and prevent the need for 
professional assistance. Even if a fire cannot be completely doused, a homeowner can 
potentially control a blaze long enough with an extinguisher for firefighters to arrive. Fire 
extinguishers should not be used if the operator is not sure if they have the proper type of 
extinguisher, if they are not sure how to use it, or if they cannot avoid smoke or are in imminent 
danger. If the operation of an extinguisher may place other people in danger, they should 
evacuate the building and wait for fire crews to arrive. 
What is on an extinguisher’s label? You'll find: 
a tag that indicates if and when it was inspected. 
Do fire extinguishers expire? 
Fire extinguishers expire and they do this for a few different reasons. One common reason is 
that, over time, the seal on the neck will weaken and allow compressed gas to escape. 
Extinguishers that have lost much of their pressure will not operate properly. Pressure within an 
extinguisher can be conveniently checked through a pressure gauge. ABCclass 
phosphate) extinguishers have the tendency to fail due to solidification of the chemical in the 
canister base. Homeowners can delay this process by periodically shaking the extinguisher. 
Expensive extinguishers that have expired, especially those designed for commercial use, can 
be refilled and resealed by companies that specialize in this service. Inexpensive models are 
Unfortunately, an expiration date cannot be fully trusted, and there is no foolproof way to know if 
an extinguisher is no longer functional. Due to the extremely destructive potential of fires and 
the relatively low cost of extinguishers, it is advisable to replace or recharge questionable 
In summary, extinguishers are classified based on their chemical ingredients, all of which have 
their own strengths and limitations. It is important to know what type of extinguisher combats 
what type of fire. Fire extinguishers are critical indoor safety devices that must be maintained 
and checked regularly. 
Smoke Alarms 
A smoke alarm, also known as a smoke detector, is a device that detects smoke and emits an 
audible sound and/or visual signal to alert residents to a potential fire. 
essential information about the types of fires they can combat. Newer devices have pictures on 
their labels that correspond directly to the fire types listed previously. Older models have letters 
that serve the same purpose; 
a numerical rating that designates the extinguishing potential for that particular model (Class A 
and B); 
instructions for operation; ad 
Facts and Figures 
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission: 
Every year in the United States, about 3,000 people lose their lives in residential fires. Most of 
these deaths are caused by smoke inhalation, rather than as a result of burns. 
Smoke Alarm Types 
Ionization and photoelectric 
are the two main designs of smoke detectors. Both types must 
pass the same tests to be certified to the voluntary standard for smoke alarms, but they perform 
differently in different types of fires. Detectors may be equipped with one or both types of 
sensors known 
as dualsensor 
smoke alarms and 
possibly a heat detector, as well. These 
sensors are described as follows: 
smoke sensors use a lightsensitive 
photocell to detect smoke inside the detector. 
They shine a beam of light that will be reflected by smoke toward the photocell, triggering the 
alarm. These sensor types work best on smoldering fires but react more slowly to flaming fires. 
They often must be hardwired 
into the house's electrical system, so some models can be 
installed only in particular locations. 
While heat detectors are not technically classified as smoke detectors, they are useful in certain 
situations when smoke alarms are likely to sound false alarms. Dirty, dusty industrial 
environments, as well as the area surrounding cooking appliances, are a few places where false 
alarms are more likely and where heat detectors may be more useful. 
Individual authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) may have their own requirements for 
placement, so homeowners can check with their local building department if they 
need specific instructions. However, the following guidelines can be helpful. 
Smoke alarms should be installed in the following locations: 
Almost twothirds 
of reported deaths caused by home fires from 2003 to 2006 resulted from fires 
in homes that lacked working smoke alarms. 
Older homes are more likely to lack an adequate number of smoke alarms because they were 
built before requirements increased. 
In 23% of home fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound. Sixty percent of 
these failures were caused by the power supplies having been deliberately removed due to 
false alarms. 
Ionization smoke sensors are the most common and economical design, and are available at 
most hardware stores. They house a chamber sided by small metal plates that irradiate the air 
so that it conducts electricity. When smoke enters the chamber, the current flow becomes 
interrupted, which triggers an alarm to sound. These sensors will quickly detect flamingtype 
fires but may be slower to react to smoldering fires. 
on the ceiling or wall outside of each separate sleeping area in the vicinity of bedrooms; 
in each bedroom, as most fires occur during sleeping hours; 
in each story within a building, including basements and cellars, but not crawlspaces or 
uninhabited attics. 
Smoke alarms should not be installed in the following locations: 
in deadair 
spots, such as the top of a peaked roof or a ceilingtowall 
Power and Interconnection 
Power for smoke alarms may come from being hardwired 
directly into the home’s electrical 
system, or it may come from just a battery. Hardwired 
smoke detectors are more reliable 
because the power source cannot be removed or drained, although they will not function in a 
power outage. Batteryoperated 
units often fail because the battery can be easily removed, 
dislodged or drained, although these units can be installed almost anywhere. Older buildings 
may be restricted to batterypowered 
designs, while newer homes generally offer more options 
for power sources. If possible, homeowners should install smoke alarms that are hardwired 
a battery backup, especially during a renovation or remodeling project. 
Smoke alarms may also be interconnected so that if one becomes triggered, they all sound in 
unison. Interconnected smoke alarms are typically connected with a wire, but new technology 
allows them to be interconnected wirelessly. The National Fire Protection Agency requires that 
smoke alarms be AFCIprotected. 
Tips for Homeowners: 
in the basement, preferably on the ceiling near the basement stairs; 
in the garage, due to all the combustible materials commonly stored there; 
on the ceiling or on the wall with the top of the detector between 6 to 12 inches from the ceiling; 
near heating or airconditioning 
supply and return vents; 
near a kitchen appliance; 
near windows, ceiling fans, or bathrooms equipped with a shower or tub; 
where ambient conditions, including humidity and temperature, are outside the limits specified 
by the manufacturer's instructions; 
within unfinished attics or garages, or in other spaces where temperatures can rise or fall 
beyond the limits set by the manufacturer; 
where the mounting surface could become considerably warmer or cooler than the rest of the 
room, such as an inadequately insulated ceiling below an unfinished attic; or 
Parents should stage periodic nighttime 
fire drills to assess whether their children will awaken 
from the alarm and respond appropriately. 
Never disable a smoke alarm. Use the alarm’s silencing feature to stop nuisance or false alarms 
triggered by cooking smoke or fireplaces. 
Test smoke alarms monthly, and replace their batteries at least twice a year. Change the 
batteries when you change your clocks for Daylight Saving Time. Most models emit a chirping 
noise when the batteries are low to alert the homeowner that they need replacement. 
If you have any questions or concerns related to smoke alarms or fire dangers in your home, 
consult with your Certified Master Inspector® during your next scheduled inspection. 
In summary, smoke alarms are invaluable, lifesaving 
appliances when they are installed 
properly and adequately maintained. 
Fire Sprinklers 
In a growing trend that many say will save even more lives than smoke alarms and 
detectors, fire sprinklers are now available for residences. 
Every year, residential fires destroy lives and property. In 2007 in the U.S., there were 414,000 
residential fires that caused: 
$7.5 billion in property damage. 
Residential sprinklers, listed by the Underwriters Laboratories (UL), are now available to 
homeowners. The development of chloropolyvinyl 
chloride and other listed nonmetallic 
has simplified installation, making sprinkler systems more costeffective. 
Because of their 
improved sensitivity, they are designed to respond to fires much faster than standard 
commercial and industrial sprinkler systems. 
Here are a few facts you might not know about fire sprinklers: 
Smoke alarms should be replaced when they fail to respond to testing, or every 10 years, 
whichever comes first. The radioactive element in ionization smoke alarms will decay beyond 
usability within 10 years. 
Smoke detectors should be replaced if they become damaged or wet, are accidentally painted 
over, are exposed to fire or grease, or are triggered without apparent cause. 
Note the sound of the alarm. It should be distinct from other sounds in the house, such as the 
telephone, doorbell and pool alarm. 
2,895 fire deaths; 
14,000 injuries; and 
On average, they use significantly less water to extinguish a fire than would be required by the 
fire department. Sprinklers use just 10 to 26 gallons per minute (gpm), while fire crews use 125 
gpm per hose. 
Insurance premiums are often lower for homes that are equipped with fire sprinklers, which help 
pay for the systems. 
In houses equipped with sprinklers, 90% of fires are contained by the operation of a single 
sprinkler head. 
Newer fire sprinkler heads are designed to activate independently of one another, leaving 
unneeded heads in reserve, and sparing watersensitive 
Fire sprinklers are triggered only by temperatures that surpass a certain heat threshold, making 
it practically impossible to trigger them accidentally. 
A recent study conducted by the UL found that house fires are getting worse; the time needed to 
escape some types of fires has been reduced from approximately 17 minutes to as little as three 
minutes, in some situations. According to the study, this change is largely due to the disuse of 
natural fabrics for furnishings, such as wool, cotton and rayon, in favor of more flammable 
synthetics, such as polyester and plastic. Sprinkler systems are thus becoming increasingly 
more important in residences, just as they have been relied upon in commercial buildings for 
Sprinklers respond to fires immediately and automatically from locations that may be dangerous 
for firefighters to reach. In contrast, fire departments can be quite slow to respond, given the 
following potential delays: 
Fire trucks can be slowed by traffic, and they can even get lost en route. 
In residential applications, sprinklers are smaller than traditional commercial sprinklers, and they 
can be aesthetically coordinated with any room décor and mounted flush with walls and ceilings. 
They are also inexpensive, relative to the value of the structure and the potential damage 
inflicted by a fire. Presently, the cost of a home sprinkler system will add 1% to 1.5% to the cost 
of new construction, and the price will probably come down in the future. Although more 
expensive, it is possible to retrofit existing homes with sprinkler systems. 
Tips for Homeowners: 
Never hang anything from any part of a fire sprinkler system. 
In summary, residential fire sprinklers are a valuable, costeffective 
safety addition to any home, 
although they require periodic maintenance. 
House Numbers 
House numbers should be clear enough so that police, the fire department, paramedics, etc., 
can quickly locate properties in an emergency. House numbers are often the only way that 
can identify their intended destinations. A number of jurisdictions have begun 
enforcing laws through strict fines for homeowners who do not comply with laws that impose 
requirements for house numbers. 
In rural areas, it may take a long time for fire trucks to reach their destination. 
Calls made at night are responded to more slowly than calls made during the day, as most 
career and volunteer firefighters are asleep. 
If the 911 
call comes from a cell phone, the dispatcher will have greater difficulty pinpointing 
the fire’s location than if the call comes from a landline. 
While some fire departments are always wellprepared, 
in many areas, the firefighters require 
time to assemble, get suited up, and prepare the fire truck. 
Always make sure control valves are in the open position. 
Always report damage to any part of a sprinkler system immediately. 
Never paint a fire sprinkler. 
Never stack items close to fire sprinklers, as this may reduce their heat sensitivity. The tops of 
stored items and furniture should be at least 18 inches below fire sprinklers, according to the 
National Fire Sprinkler Association. 
Local Regulations 
Many municipalities and counties have implemented ordinances requiring property owners to 
standardize the display of house numbers on buildings. The city of St. Martinville, Louisiana, for 
instance, is considering requiring its citizens to display street numbers in block numbering that is 
at least 4 inches tall and is either illuminated at night or has a reflective finish. If the ordinance is 
passed, the city will fine offenders $200, plus hundreds more in court fees. In Florida, the cities 
of Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg have begun enforcing their own municipal codes that 
regulate the visibility of house numbers, imposing fines for violators. 
Common Requirements 
In order for house numbers to be visible from the street, Certified Master Inspectors® advise 
that they should: 
be clearly displayed at the driveway entrance if the house is not visible from the road. 
According to 6.5.12 of the International Standards for Inspecting Commercial Properties, 
inspectors should: 
Inspect the address or street number to determine that it is visible from the street with numbers 
in contrast to their background. 
Future Adjustments 
Even if a house number is currently adequate, it might need adjustment in the future. The 
following are common reasons for future adjustments: 
be large. Jurisdictions that regulate the size of street numbers generally require them to be 3 to 
6 inches tall. Many jurisdictions require that the numbers be of a certain thickness, such as 
as required by New York City; 
be of a color that contrasts with their background. Reflective numbers are usually helpful 
because they are easier to see at night than numbers that are not reflective; 
not be obscured by any trees, shrubs, or other permanent objects; 
face the street that is named in the house’s address. It does emergency workers no good if the 
house number faces a different street than the one the workers are traveling on; 
The numbers assigned to houses by the municipality occasionally change, and homeowners 
must adjust their house numbers accordingly. 
The trees or shrubs in front of the house have grown so much that the number is no longer 
visible. House numbers installed in the winter may be visible during that season but become 
blocked by budding vegetation by spring or summer. 
House numbers will require maintenance when they get dirty. Numbers may not be reflective or 
contrasting if they are covered in mud. 
Snow piles created by snow plows during the winter may be high enough to cover the number. If 
this happens, the number should be raised so this situation does not repeat. 
In summary, house numbers serve a critical function for emergency personnel and should be 
clearly displayed. 
Electrical Safety 
Aluminum Wiring 
Between approximately 1965 and 1973, singlestrand 
aluminum wiring was sometimes 
substituted for copper branchcircuit 
wiring in residential electrical systems due to the sudden 
escalating price of copper. After a decade of use by homeowners and electricians, inherent 
weaknesses were discovered in the metal that led to its disuse as a branch wiring material. 
Although properly maintained aluminum wiring is acceptable, aluminum will generally become 
defective faster than copper due to certain qualities inherent in the metal. Neglected 
connections in outlets, switches and light fixtures containing aluminum wiring become 
increasingly dangerous over time. Poor connections cause wiring to overheat, creating a 
potential fire hazard. In addition, the presence of singlestrand 
aluminum wiring may void a 
homeowner’s insurance policy. Homeowners should talk with their insurance agents about 
whether the presence of aluminum wiring in their home is a problem that requires changes to 
their policy. 
Facts and Figures 
In April 1974, two people were killed in a house fire in Hampton Bays, New York. Fire officials 
determined that the fire was caused by a faulty aluminum wire connection at an outlet. 
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), "Homes wired with aluminum 
wire manufactured before 1972 ['old technology' aluminum wire] are 55 times more likely to 
have one or more connections reach fire hazard conditions than is a home wired with copper." 
Aluminum as a Metal 
Aluminum possesses certain qualities that, compared with copper, make it an undesirable 
material as an electrical conductor. These qualities all lead to loose connections, when fire 
hazards become likely. These qualities are as follows: 
excessive vibration. Electrical current vibrates as it passes through wiring. This vibration is more 
extreme in aluminum than it is in copper, and, as time passes, it can cause connections to 
Identifying Aluminum Wiring 
higher electrical resistance. Aluminum has a high resistance to electrical current flow, which 
means that, given the same amperage, aluminum conductors must be of a larger diameter than 
that required by copper conductors. 
less ductile. Aluminum will fatigue and break down more readily when subjected to bending and 
other forms of abuse than copper, which is more ductile. Fatigue will cause the wire to break 
down internally and will increasingly resist electrical current, leading to a buildup of excessive 
galvanic corrosion. In the presence of moisture, aluminum will undergo galvanic corrosion when 
it comes into contact with certain dissimilar metals. 
oxidation. Exposure to oxygen in the air causes deterioration to the outer surface of the wire. 
This process is called oxidation. Aluminum wire is more easily oxidized than copper wire, and 
the compound formed by this process – aluminum oxide – is less conductive than copper oxide. 
As time passes, oxidation can deteriorate connections and present a fire hazard. 
greater malleability. Aluminum is soft and malleable, meaning it is highly sensitive to 
compression. After a screw has been overtightened 
on aluminum wiring, for instance, the wire 
will continue to deform or “flow” even after the tightening has ceased. This deformation will 
create a loose connection and increase electrical resistance in that location. 
greater thermal expansion and contraction. Even more than copper, aluminum expands and 
contracts with changes in temperature. Over time, this process will cause connections between 
the wire and the device to degrade. For this reason, aluminum wires should never be inserted 
into the “stab,” “bayonet” or “pushin” 
type terminations found on the back of many light switches 
and outlets. 
Aluminum wires are the color of aluminum and are easily discernible from copper and other 
Since the early 1970s, wiringdevice 
binding terminals for use with aluminum wire have been 
marked CO/ALR, which stands for “copper/aluminum revised." 
Look for the word "aluminum" or the initials "AL" on the plastic wire jacket. Where wiring is 
visible, such as in the attic or electrical panel, homeowners can look for printed or embossed 
letters on the plastic wire jacket. Aluminum wire may have the word "aluminum," or a specific 
brand name, such as "Kaiser Aluminum," marked on the wire jacket. Where labels are hard to 
read, a light can be shined along the length of the wire. 
When was the house built? Homes built or expanded between 1965 and 1973 are more likely to 
have aluminum wiring than houses built before or after those years. 
Options for Correction 
Aluminum wiring should be evaluated by a qualified electrician who is experienced in evaluating 
and correcting aluminum wiring problems. Not all licensed electricians are properly trained to 
deal with defective aluminum wiring. The CPSC recommends the following two methods for 
correction for aluminum wiring: 
Use copalum crimps. The crimp connector repair consists of attaching a piece of copper wire to 
the existing aluminum wire branch circuit with a specially designed metal sleeve and powered 
crimping tool. This special connector can be properly installed only with the matching AMP tool. 
An insulating sleeve is placed around the crimp connector to complete the repair. Although 
effective, they are expensive (typically around $50 per outlet, switch or light fixture). 
Although not recommended by the CPSC as methods of permanent repair for defective 
aluminum wiring, the following methods may be considered: 
Remove the ignitable materials from the vicinity of the connections. 
In summary, aluminum wiring can be a fire hazard due to inherent qualities of the metal. 
Rewire the home with copper wire. While this is the most effective method, rewiring is expensive 
and impractical, in most cases. 
application of antioxidant 
paste. This method can be used for wires that are multistranded 
wires that are too large to be effectively crimped. 
pigtailing. This method involves attaching a short piece of copper wire to the aluminum wire with 
a twiston 
connector. the copper wire is connected to the switch, wall outlet or other termination 
device. This method is only effective if the connections between the aluminum wires and the 
copper pigtails are extremely reliable. Pigtailing with some types of connectors, even though 
Underwriters Laboratories might presently list them for the application, can lead to increasing 
the hazard. Also, beware that pigtailing will increase the number of connections, all of which 
must be maintained. Aluminum Wiring Repair (AWR), Inc., of Aurora, Colorado, advises that 
pigtailing can be useful as a temporary repair or in isolated applications, such as the installation 
of a ceiling fan. 
CO/ALR connections. According to the CPSC, these devices cannot be used for all parts of the 
wiring system, such as ceilingmounted 
light fixtures or permanently wired appliances and, as 
such, CO/ALR connections cannot constitute a complete repair. Also, according to AWR, these 
connections often loosen over time. 
alumiconn. Although AWR believes this method may be an effective temporary fix, they are 
wary that it has little history, and that they are larger than copper crimps and are often 
incorrectly applied. 
Replace certain failureprone 
types of devices and connections with others that are more 
compatible with aluminum wire. 
(K&T) wiring was an early standardized method of electrical wiring in buildings, 
in common use in North America from about 1880 to the 1940s. The system is considered 
obsolete and can be a safety hazard, although some of the fear associated with it is 
Facts About KnobandTube 
It is not permitted in any new construction. 
How KnobandTube 
Wiring Works 
K&T wiring consists of insulated copper conductors passing through lumber framing drill holes 
via protective porcelain insulating tubes. They are supported along their length by naileddown 
porcelain knobs. Where wires enter a wiring device, such as a lamp or switch, or were pulled 
into a wall, they are protected by flexible cloth or rubber insulation called loom. 
Advantages of KnobandTube 
The original installation of knobandtube 
wiring is often superior to that of modern Romex® 
wiring. K&T wiring installation requires more skill to install than Romex® and, for this reason, 
unskilled people rarely ever installed it. 
Problems Associated with K&T Wiring: 
In older systems, the wiring is insulated with varnish and fiber materials that are susceptible to 
Compared with modern wiring insulation, K&T wiring is less resistant to damage. K&T wiring 
insulated with cambric and asbestos is not rated for moisture exposure. Older systems contain 
insulation with additives that may oxidize copper wire. Bending the wires may cause insulation 
to crack and peel away. 
K&T wiring is often spliced with modern wiring incorrectly by amateurs. This is perhaps due to 
the ease by which K&T wiring is accessed. 
It is not inherently dangerous. The dangers from this system arise from its age, improper 
modifications, and situations where building insulation envelops the wires. 
It has no ground wire and thus cannot service any threepronged 
While it is considered obsolete, there is no code that requires its complete removal. 
It is treated differently in different jurisdictions. In some areas, it must be removed at all 
accessible locations, while others merely require that it not be installed in new construction. 
K&T wiring has a higher ampacity than wiring systems of the same gauge. The reason for this is 
that the hot and neutral wires are separated from one another, usually by 4 to 6 inches, which 
allows the wires to readily dissipate heat into free air. 
K&T wires are less likely than Romex® cables to be punctured by nails because K&T wires are 
held away from the framing. 
The porcelain components have an almost unlimited lifespan. 
Unsafe modifications are far more common with K&T wiring than they are with Romex® and 
other modern wiring systems. Part of the reason for this is that K&T is so old that more 
opportunity has existed for improper modifications. 
The insulation that envelopes the wiring is a fire hazard. 
It tends to stretch and sag over time. 
It lacks a grounding conductor. Grounding conductors reduce the chance of electrical fire and 
damage to sensitive equipment. 
Building Insulation 
K&T wiring is designed to dissipate heat into free air, and insulation will disturb this process. 
Insulation around K&T wires will cause heat to build up, and this creates a fire hazard. The 2008 
National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that this wiring system not be covered by insulation. 
Specifically, it states that this wiring system should not be in... 
hollow spaces of walls, ceilings and attics where such spaces are insulated by loose, rolled or 
insulating material that envelops the conductors. 
Local jurisdictions may or may not adopt the NEC’s requirement. The California Electrical Code, 
for instance, allows insulation to be in contact with knobandtube 
wiring, provided that certain 
conditions are met, such as, but not limited to, the following: 
Normal requirements for insulation must be met. 
When K&T wiring was first introduced, common household electrical appliances were limited to 
little more than toasters, tea kettles, coffee percolators and clothes irons. The electrical 
requirements of midto 
century homes could not have been foreseen during the late 
18th century, a time during which electricity was seen as a passing fad to many people. Existing 
K&T systems are notorious for modifications made in an attempt to match the increasing 
amperage loads required by televisions, refrigerators, and a plethora of other electrical 
appliances. Many of these attempts were made by insufficiently trained handymen, rather than 
experienced electricians, whose work made the wiring system vulnerable to overloading. 
Many homeowners adapted to the inadequate amperage of K&T wiring by installing fuses with 
resistances that were too high for the wiring. The result of this modification is that the fuses 
would not blow as often and the wiring would suffer heat damage due to excessive amperage 
loads. It is not uncommon for homeowners to find connections wrapped with masking tape or 
Scotch tape instead of electrical tape. 
K&T Wiring and Insurance 
Many insurance companies refuse to insure houses that have knobandtube 
wiring due to the 
risk of fire. Exceptions are sometimes made for houses with such systems that have been 
deemed safe by an electrical contractor. 
A licensed electrical contractor must certify that the system is safe. 
The certification must be filed with the local building department. 
Accessible areas where insulation covers the wiring must be posted with a warning sign. In 
some areas, this sign must be in English and Spanish. 
The insulation must be noncombustible 
and nonconductive. 
Advice for Homeowners with K&T Wiring: 
Prospective home buyers should get an estimate of the cost of replacing K&T wiring. They can 
use this amount to negotiate a lower price for the house. 
In summary, knobandtube 
wiring is likely to be a safety hazard due to improper modifications 
and the addition of building insulation. 
Ungrounded Electrical Receptacles 
Grounding of electrical receptacles (which some laypeople refer to as outlets) is an important 
safety feature that has been required in new construction since 1962, as it minimizes the risk of 
electric shock and protects electrical equipment from damage. Modern grounded 120volt 
receptacles in the United States have a small, round ground slot centered below two vertical hot 
and neutral slots, and it provides an alternate path for electricity that may stray from an 
appliance. Older homes often have ungrounded, twoslot 
receptacles that are outdated and 
potentially dangerous. 
Homeowners sometimes attempt to perform the following dangerous modifications to 
ungrounded receptacles: 
Have the system evaluated by a qualified electrician. Only an expert can confirm that the 
system was installed and modified correctly. 
Do not run an excessive amount of appliances in the home, as doing so can cause a fire. 
Where the wiring is brittle or cracked, it should be replaced. Proper maintenance is crucial. 
K&T wiring should not be used in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, or at the exterior. The 
wiring must be grounded in order to be used safely in these locations. 
Rewiring a house can take weeks and cost thousands of dollars, but unsafe wiring can cause 
fires, complicate real estate transactions, and make insurers skittish. 
Homeowners should carefully consider their options before deciding whether to rewire their 
The homeowner or an electrician should carefully remove any insulation that is found 
surrounding K&T wires. 
removal of the ground pin from an appliance. This common procedure not only prevents 
grounding but also bypasses the appliance’s polarizing feature, since a depinned 
plug can be 
inserted into the receptacle upsidedown. 
While homeowners may be made aware of the limitations of ungrounded electrical receptacles, 
upgrades are not necessarily required. Many small electrical appliances, such as alarm clocks 
and coffee makers, are twopronged 
and are thus unaffected by a lack of grounding in the 
home’s electrical system. 
However, upgrading the system will bring it closer to modern safety standards, and this may be 
accomplished in the following ways: 
Replace threeslot 
receptacles with twoslot 
receptacles. Twoslot 
receptacles correctly 
represent that the system is ungrounded, lessening the chance that they will be used 
Neither homeowners nor unqualified professionals should attempt to modify a building’s 
electrical components. Misguided attempts to ground receptacles to a metallic water line or 
ground rod may be dangerous. 
In summary, adjustments should be made by qualified electricians not 
homeowners to 
electrical system to upgrade ungrounded receptacles to meet modern safety standards and the 
requirements of today's typical household appliances and electronics. 
the use of an adapter, also known as a "cheater plug." Adapters permit the ungrounded 
operation of appliances that are designed for grounded operation. These are a cheaper 
alternative to replacing ungrounded receptacles but are less safe than properly grounding the 
connected appliance; 
replacing a twoslot 
receptacle with a threeslot 
receptacle without rewiring 
the electrical 
system so that a path to ground is provided to the receptacle. While this measure may serve as 
a seemingly proper receptacle for threepronged 
appliances, this “upgrade” is potentially more 
dangerous than the use of an adapter because the receptacle will appear to be grounded and 
future owners might never be aware that their system is not grounded. If a house still has knobandtube 
wiring, it is likely that any threeslot 
receptacles are ungrounded; and 
Install threeslot 
receptacles and wire them so that they’re correctly grounded. 
Install groundfault 
circuit interrupters (GFCIs). These can be installed upstream or at the 
receptacle itself. GFCIs are an accepted replacement because they protect against electric 
shocks even in the absence of grounding, but they may not protect the powered appliance. 
Also, GFCIprotected 
ungrounded receptacles may not work effectively with surge protectors. 
Ungrounded GFCIprotected 
receptacles should be identified with labels that come with the new 
receptacles that state: “No Equipment Ground.” 
Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) 
What is a GFCI? 
A groundfault 
circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a device used in electrical wiring to disconnect a 
circuit when unbalanced current is detected between an energized conductor and a neutral 
return conductor. Such an imbalance is sometimes caused by current "leaking" through a 
person who is simultaneously in contact with a ground and an energized part of the circuit, 
which could result in a lethal shock. GFCIs are designed to provide protection in such a 
situation, unlike standard circuit breakers, which guard against overloads, short circuits and 
ground faults. 
It is estimated that about 300 deaths by electrocution occur every year, so the use of GFCIs has 
been adopted in new construction, and recommended as an upgrade in older construction, in 
order to mitigate the possibility of injury or fatality from electric shock. 
The first highsensitivity 
system for detecting current leaking to ground was developed by Henri 
Rubin in 1955 for use in South African mines. This coldcathode 
system had a tripping 
sensitivity of 250 mA (milliamperes), and was soon followed by an upgraded design that allowed 
for adjustable tripsensitivity 
from 12.5 to 17.5 mA. The extremely rapid tripping after earth 
caused the circuit to deenergize 
before electric shock could drive a person's 
heart into ventricular fibrillation, which is usually the specific cause of death attributed to electric 
Charles Dalziel first developed a transistorized version of the groundfault 
circuit interrupter in 
1961. Through the 1970s, most GFCIs were of the circuitbreaker 
type. This version of the GFCI 
was prone to frequent false trips due to poor alternatingcurrent 
characteristics of 120volt 
insulations. Especially in circuits with long cable runs, current leaking along the conductors’ 
insulation could be high enough that breakers tended to trip at the slightest imbalance. 
Since the early 1980s, groundfault 
circuit interrupters have been built into outlet receptacles, 
and advances in design in both receptacle and breaker types have improved reliability while 
reducing instances of "false trips," also known as nuisancetripping. 
NEC Requirements for GFCIs 
The National Electrical Code (NEC) has included recommendations and requirements for GFCIs 
in some form since 1968, when it first allowed for GFCIs as a method of protection for 
underwater swimming pool lights. Throughout the 1970s, GFCI installation requirements were 
gradually added for 120volt 
receptacles in areas prone to possible water contact, including 
bathrooms, garages, and receptacles located outdoors. 
The 1980s saw additional requirements implemented. During this period, kitchens and 
basements were added as areas that were required to have GFCIs, as well as boat houses, 
commercial garages, and indoor pools and spas. New requirements during the '90s included 
crawlspaces, wet bars and rooftops. In 1996, GFCIs were mandated for all temporary wiring for 
construction, remodeling, maintenance, repair, demolition, and similar activities. 
The 2008 NEC contains additional updates relevant to GFCI use, as well as some exceptions 
for certain areas. The 2008 language is presented here for reference. 
2008 NEC on GFCIs 
100.1 Definition 
100.1 Definitions. GroundFault 
Circuit Interrupter. A device intended for the protection of 
personnel that functions to deenergize 
a circuit or portion thereof within an established period 
of time when a current to ground exceeds the values established for a Class A device. 
FPN: Class A groundfault 
circuit interrupters trip when the current to ground has a value in the 
range of 4 mA to 6 mA. For further information, see UL 943, standard for GroundFault 
210.8(A)&(B) Protection for Personnel 
210.8 GroundFault 
Circuit Interrupter Protection for Personnel. 
(A) Dwelling Units. All 125volt, 
receptacles installed in the 
locations specified in (1) through (8) shall have groundfault 
protection for 
(1) bathrooms; 
(2) garages, and also accessory buildings that have a floor located at or below grade level not 
intended as habitable rooms and limited to storage areas, work areas, and areas of similar use; 
Exception No. 1: Receptacles not readily accessible. 
Exception No. 2: A single receptacle or a duplex receptacle for two appliances that, in normal 
use, is not easily moved from one place to another and that is cordandplug 
connected in 
accordance with 400.7(A)(6), (A)(7), or (A)(8). 
Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(2) shall not be considered as meeting 
the requirements of 210.52(G) 
(3) outdoors; 
Exception: Receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch 
circuit for electric snow melting or deicing 
equipment shall be permitted to be installed in 
accordance with the applicable provisions of Article 426. 
(4) crawlspaces at or below grade level. 
Exception No. 1: Receptacles that are not readily accessible. 
Exception No. 2: A single receptacle or a duplex receptacle for two appliances that, in normal 
use, is not easily moved from one place to another and that is cordandplug 
connected in 
accordance with 400.7(A)(6), (A)(7), or (A)(8). 
Exception No. 3: A receptacle supplying only a permanently installed fire alarm or burglar alarm 
system shall not be required to have groundfault 
circuit interrupter protection. 
Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(2) shall not be considered as meeting 
the requirements of 210.52(G) 
(6) kitchens, where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces; 
(7) wet bar sinks, where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces and are 
located within 6 feet of the outside edge of the wet bar sink; 
(8) boathouses; 
(B) Other Than Dwelling Units. All 125volt, 
Installed in the locations specified in (1), (2), and (3) shall have groundfault 
circuit interrupter 
protection for personnel: 
(1) bathrooms; 
(2) rooftops; 
Exception: Receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch 
circuit for electric snowmelting 
or deicing 
equipment shall be permitted to be installed in 
accordance with the applicable provisions of Article 426. 
(3) kitchens. 
Testing ReceptacleType 
GFCIs are currently designed to allow for safe and easy testing that can be 
performed without any professional or technical knowledge of electricity. GFCIs should be 
tested right after installation to make sure they are working properly and protecting the circuit. 
They should also be tested once a month to make sure they are working properly and are 
providing protection from fatal shock. 
To test the receptacle GFCI, first plug a nightlight or lamp into the outlet. The light should be on. 
Then press the "TEST" button on the GFCI. The "RESET" button should pop out, and the light 
should turn off. 
If the "RESET" button pops out but the light does not turn off, the GFCI has been improperly 
wired. Contact an electrician to correct the wiring errors. 
If the "RESET" button does not pop out, the GFCI is defective and should be replaced. 
If the GFCI is functioning properly and the lamp turns off, press the "RESET" button to restore 
power to the outlet. 
Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) 
circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are special types of electrical receptacles or outlets and 
circuit breakers designed to detect and respond to potentially dangerous electrical arcs in home 
branch wiring. 
How do they work? 
AFCIs function by monitoring the electrical waveform and promptly opening (interrupting) the 
circuit they serve if they detect changes in the wave pattern that are characteristic of a 
dangerous arc. They also must be capable of distinguishing safe, normal arcs (such as those 
created when a switch is turned on or a plug is pulled from a receptacle) from arcs that can 
cause fires. An AFCI can detect, recognize and respond to very small changes in wave pattern. 
What is an arc? 
When an electric current crosses an air gap from an energized component to a grounded 
component, it produces a glowing plasma discharge known as an arc. For example, a bolt of 
lightning is a very large, powerful arc that crosses an atmospheric gap from an electrically 
charged cloud to the ground or another cloud. Just as lightning can cause fires, arcs produced 
by domestic wiring are capable of producing high levels of heat that can ignite their 
surroundings and lead to structure fires. 
According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency for the year 2005, electrical fires 
damaged approximately 20,900 homes, killed 500 people, and cost $862 million in property 
Although shortcircuits 
and overloads account for many of these fires, arcs are responsible for 
the majority and are undetectable by traditional (nonAFCI) 
circuit breakers. 
Where are arcs likely to form? 
Arcs can form where wires are improperly installed or when insulation becomes damaged. In 
older homes, wire insulation tends to crystallize as it ages, becoming brittle and prone to 
cracking and chipping. Damaged insulation exposes the currentcarrying 
wire to its 
surroundings, increasing the chances that an arc may occur. 
Situations in which arcs may be created: 
loose connections in outlets, switches and light fixtures. 
Where are AFCIs required? 
Locations in which AFCIs are required depend on the building codes adopted by their 
The 2006 International Residential Code (IRC) requires that AFCIs be installed within bedrooms 
in the following manner: 
E3802.12 ArcFault 
Protection of Bedroom Outlets. All branch circuits that supply120volt, 
outlets installed in bedrooms shall be protected by a 
or branch/feedertype 
circuit interrupter installed to provide protection 
of the entire branch circuit. 
Exception: The location of the arcfault 
circuit interrupter shall be permitted to be at other than 
the origination of the branch circuit, provided that: 
the circuit conductors between the branch circuit overcurrent device and the arcfault 
interrupter are installed in a metal raceway or a cable with metallic sheathing. 
The National Electrical Code (NEC) offers the following guidelines concerning AFCI placement 
within bedrooms: 
electrical cords damaged by vacuum cleaners or trapped beneath furniture or doors. 
damage to wire insulation from nails or screws driven through walls. 
appliance cords damaged by heat, natural aging, kinking, impact, or overextension. 
spillage of liquid. 
the arcfault 
circuit interrupter is installed within 6 feet of the branch circuit overcurrent device, 
as measured along the branch circuit conductor; and 
Dwelling Units. All 120volt, 
branch circuits supplying outlets 
installed in dwelling units in family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, 
sun rooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, and similar rooms or areas shall be protected 
by a listed arcfault 
circuit interrupter, combinationtype 
installed to provide protection of the 
branch circuit. 
Some jurisdictions do not yet require their implementation in locations where they can be 
What types of AFCIs are available? 
AFCIs are available as circuit breakers for installation in the electrical distribution panel. 
Nuisance Tripping 
An AFCI may activate in situations that are not dangerous and create needless power 
shortages. This can be particularly annoying when an AFCI stalls power to a freezer or 
refrigerator, allowing its contents to spoil. There are a few procedures an electrical contractor 
can perform in order to reduce potential “nuisance tripping," such as: 
Check the junction box and fixture connections to ensure that the neutral conductor contacts a 
grounded conductor. 
Arc Faults vs. Ground Faults 
It is important to distinguish AFCI devices from groundfault 
circuit interrupter (GFCI) devices. 
GFCIs detect ground faults, which occur when current leaks from a hot (ungrounded) conductor 
to a grounded object as a result of a short circuit. This situation can be hazardous when a 
person unintentionally becomes the current’s path to the ground. GFCIs function by constantly 
monitoring the current flow between hot and neutral (grounding) conductors, and activate when 
they sense a difference of 5 milliamps or more. Thus, GFCIs are intended to prevent personal 
injury due to electric shock, while AFCIs prevent personal injury and property damage due to 
structure fires. 
In summary, AFCIs are designed to detect small arcs of electricity before they have a chance to 
lead to a structure fire. 
Check that the load power wire, panel neutral wire, and load neutral wire are properly 
Check wiring to ensure that there are no shared neutral connections. 
Electric Fences 
Electric fences are a "fear" barrier that use electric shock to delineate a boundary and 
discourage animals and people from crossing it. Primarily, they are used to protect livestock and 
domestic pets by preventing them from leaving a sanctioned area and by deterring predators 
from entering the area. 
An effective electric fence involves the interconnection of the following four components: 
The ground is typically composed of metal rods driven into the soil near the energizer and are 
connected to it by a wire. A complete circuit occurs when an animal or person touches the 
conductor, allowing electricity to flow from the conductor through their body and into the soil, 
where moisture carries the current to the ground rods and back into the energizer. The absence 
of a ground circuit is how a bird can casually rest on a highvoltage 
power line. 
In general, an electric fence should be supplied with only enough power to startle not 
injure so 
that an animal that brushes up against the fence will recoil but not suffer electrical burns or 
permanent injury. The feeling should be similar to the stinging sensation of a snapped rubber 
band. Exceptions are made for prisons, military installations, and vital utility stations to 
discourage escapes and vandalism attempts. 
Fences that are too strongly electrified for their application, whether by accident or design, are a 
serious safety hazard. Aside from unnecessarily and inhumanely exposing farm animals or pets 
to unsafe shocks, homeowners must consider the inherent dangers that these fences may pose 
to firefighters, police and trespassers. Note that “trespasser” can refer to an innocent child, such 
as a 6yearold 
Texas girl who was killed instantly when she touched a neighbor’s electric fence. 
The investigating police captain said the amperage was far too high, “enough to power half of a 
house. She didn’t have time to scream for help, close her eyes... nothing,” according to KLTV. 
The owner of the fence pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide. 
Other cases of overpowered 
fences abound; an elderly New York woman was killed when she 
tried to free her pet from an electric fence. The voltage was too high and the fence lacked a 
regulator to pulse the shock. A Colorado man even succumbed to his own fence –a 
project designed to keep his dogs in the yard, yet set to deliver lethal voltage, and designed 
without a regulator. (He did, however, receive a posthumous Darwin Award for his efforts.) 
A few Additional Tips: 
The energizer turns lowvoltage 
battery power, household current, or converted sunlight into a 
electric shock. 
The conductor is the wire that transmits the energizer’s shock to the animal or person who 
touches it. This is usually galvanized or aluminumcoated 
steel wire, or polytape 
or polyrope 
wire. Manufactured in a number of configurations, all “poly” wires contain tiny stainless steel or 
copper wires woven into the synthetic fabric, enabling them to conduct electricity. 
The post supports the conductor at the desired height, while the insulator prevents the electricity 
in the wire from leaking into the ground through the post. Some posts are nonconductive 
thus do not require an insulator. 
Lightning is one of the main causes of electric fence fires and controller malfunction. Use the 
following strategies to minimize lightning dangers: 
The energizer must be sized properly for the type of animal to be contained within the perimeter. 
Extra voltage may be required for sheep, for instance, as their thick wool (especially in the 
winter) is an effective insulator against shock. Their burned wool can wrap around the conductor 
and further nullify the shock against the rest of the herd, as the other sheep follow the first 
sheep into the road, a neighbor’s yard, or into a waiting pack of hungry coyotes. Of course, the 
size of the animal is also a factor, as a small dog will not need as much of a jolt as a horse. The 
length of the fence must be considered, too, as the potency of the shock will dissipate if it's 
forced to travel too far from the conductor. 
Poor grounding weakens the electric shock and can interfere with radios, telephones and 
televisions. Multiple ground rods should be installed, each 6 to 8 feet long, and attached with 
adequate ground clamps. In very dry or cold climates, a ground wire may be needed to run 
parallel to the hot wire so that the system does not depend on insulating dry or frozen soil. 
and polyrope 
give greater tensile strength and are useful in highvoltage 
although most electric fences are made from aluminum or galvanized steel. Never use more 
than one type of metal, as galvanic corrosion can occur when two different metals are hooked 
together, weakening the connection and the whole electric fence. 
Fences should be equipped with warning signs that alert passersby to their danger, as it isn’t 
always obvious that a fence is electrified. In one bizarre instance that was conveniently captured 
by a security camera, a man was knocked unconscious when he urinated on a fence that he did 
not realize was electrified. Signage will also protect the homeowner against liability. 
Equip the fence with a light that shines when the fence is not operational. This way, fence 
operators can quickly fix a malfunction before penned animals become wise to the failing. 
Professionals can tell if a fence is working by touching the metal end of a long screwdriver to the 
conductor while holding the plastic insulated end. An active fence should create a visible, 
audible arc. Do not use an uninsulated item for this purpose, such as a blade of grass. 
Never touch a fence that may be electrified (or any live circuits of hazardous voltage) with two 
hands, as this will allow the current to travel through the heart and lungs. Always keep one hand 
in your pocket so you don’t accidentally touch something that will turn a painful but nonlethal 
shock into cardiac arrest. 
Never electrify barbedwire 
fences. It takes little imagination to picture what will happen if 
electrified barbs become trapped in an animal’s fur. 
o Disconnect the controller from the fence line and power source before a storm is 
expected. o Install a lightning diverter (commonly referred to as a lightning arrestor) between 
fence and the controller. This will divert a lightning strike’s electricity to the earth before it does 
any damage to the controller. o Install a surge suppressor to protect the controller on the utility 
side. The suppressor is 
plugged into the outlet and the controller is plugged into the suppressor. o Install a cutoff 
switch as a quick way to disconnect the fence from the controller without actually getting near 
the fence. This switch also allows the fence to be conveniently turned off while it’s being worked 
Plant fence posts solidly, at least 2 feet in the ground in solid earth or concrete, especially if you 
plan to contain large animals. Space the posts far enough apart so that the wires have room to 
bend, rather than forcing undue stress on the posts and insulators. 
In summary, electric fences are useful and practical deterrents in a number of applications, both 
commercial and residential. But improperly maintained or designed electric fences can seriously 
injure or kill animals and humans. 
Homeowners may use a generator to supply electricity to their home in the case of a power 
outage, either out of necessity or convenience. Homeowners may want to know about 
generators and the potential hazards they present when improperly wired or utilized. 
Generator Types 
There are two main types of generators: permanently installed standby generators; and 
portable generators. 
Standby Generators 
Standby generators typically operate on natural gas or liquid propane. They remain fixed in 
place outside the home and are designed to supply onsite 
power to specified circuits through a 
home's electrical wiring. These generators work in tandem with a manual or automatic transfer 
switch, which automatically detects an interruption in gridpowered 
electricity and subsequently 
transfers over electrical input to the generator. The transfer switch suspends input from the 
generator once it senses that utilitypowered 
electricity has resumed. Generators for smallto 
homes are typically aircooled 
and employ fans to regulate the temperature inside 
the unit. Liquidcooled 
units are used for the larger energy loads in larger homes. 
Some advantages of standby generators are as follows: 
Keep flammable materials far from the electric fence. Small sparks and arcs can easily occur 
due to weather conditions, lightning strikes, vegetation brushing against the fence, and fence 
Be sure to purchase highquality, 
insulators that will not degrade from exposure to 
ultraviolet light. Cheap insulators will grow weak and eventually shatter. 
Uninterrupted power can be supplied to systems that must remain turned on continuously, such 
as home medical equipment used for breathing, etc. 
Disadvantages of standby generators: 
Standby generators may be prohibitively expensive for the average homeowner. 
Portable Generators 
portable generators are typically smaller in size and power capacity than 
permanently installed generators. They are designed so that corded electrical devices can be 
plugged directly into them. 
Advantages of portable generators: 
Portable units are generally less expensive than standby generators. 
Disadvantages of portable generators: 
Devices that are hardwired 
into a home's electrical system cannot be powered by a portable 
generator if no transfer switch is installed. 
They may be turned on manually, or they may be programmed to switch on automatically in the 
case of a power outage even when no one is home. 
Power may be supplied for extended periods of time. 
systems, such as a home's furnace, well pump and air conditioner, may maintain 
continuous power. 
Installation may require a permit. 
A qualified technician, such as an electrician, is required to install the ATS and to determine the 
electrical load requirements for the circuits in the home. 
Routine maintenance is required. 
They’re versatile. They may be used at home or transported and utilized in remote locations, 
such as a campground or construction site. 
They do not require complicated installation. 
They typically do not require a permit. 
Portable and standby generators produce dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) gas, which can be 
deadly if inhaled. 
Inexperienced installers are exposed to the risk of electrical shock. Only qualified electricians 
should attempt to install a generator. 
cords attached to a portable generator may cause a fire. 
Homeowners should check for the following: 
Fuel for portable generators should be stored away from the home (and children) in clearly 
labeled and durable containers. 
In summary, generators can be lifesavers during a power outage, but they present serious 
health and safety concerns if they are not installed and used properly. 
Overloading a generator may result in reduced fuel efficiency, damage to appliances, or fire. 
Standby generators and their required transfer switches that are incorrectly wired or missing 
may result in "backfeed" 
hazardous condition in which an electrical current is fed back into 
the grid which 
could potentially electrocute and kill homeowners, utility workers, and others 
who are using the same utility transformer. 
Connecting a portable generator directly into a home's wall outlet can also cause dangerous 
Generators that are exposed to water or that are not properly grounded can cause electrocution. 
Gasoline for portable generators is highly flammable and may cause a fire when exposed to an 
open flame or when spilled on the hot generator. 
Generators should never be used anywhere indoors, even if the area is ventilated. 
Portable generators placed outside should not be near doors, vents, or open windows leading 
into the home. 
detectors should be installed in case CO is accidentally released into the 
A portable generator should not be plugged directly into a home's electrical receptacle. Only a 
electrical cord that’s rated for outdoor use should be used to connect 
the generator to the power source. 
A standby generator hardwired 
into a home should have a transfer switch installed to prevent 
A Certified Master Inspector® can locate this device so that it’s situated between 
the generator and the main electrical panel. 
Generators should be properly grounded. 
Units should be dry and shielded from contact with liquid. 
Electrical cords should not have any punctures or exposed wiring. 
Cords running from portable generators should be kept out of the way of foot traffic and should 
not run underneath rugs. 
The total electrical capacity of the generator should exceed the power requirements of the 
devices that the unit is supplying. 
Environmental Concerns 
What is asbestos? 
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can be positively identified only with a special type of 
microscope. There are several types of asbestos fibers. In the past, asbestos was added to a 
variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance. 
How can asbestos affect my health? 
From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that 
breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer in the form 
of mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity, and 
asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue. 
The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increase with the number of fibers inhaled. The risk 
of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also higher for smokers. People who get 
asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time. The symptoms 
of these diseases do not typically appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to 
Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not 
develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos 
fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can remain there for a long time, 
increasing the risk of disease. Asbestos material that is in a friable state – that is, if it would 
crumble easily if handled, or if it has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder – is more 
likely to be a health hazard. 
Where would I find asbestos and when can it be a problem? 
Most products made today do not contain asbestos. The few products still made that contain 
asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s, 
many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. 
Common products that may have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may 
release fibers, include: 
steam pipes, boilers, and furnace ducts insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper 
tape. These materials may release asbestos fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed 
resilient floor tiles (vinyl asbestos, asphalt and rubber), the backing on vinyl sheet flooring, and 
adhesives used for installing floor tile. Sanding tiles can release fibers, and so can scraping or 
sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal; 
automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings, and gaskets. 
Where Asbestos Hazards May Be Found in the Home 
Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may have asbestos insulation. 
What should be done about asbestos in the home? 
If you think asbestos may be in your home, don't panic. Usually, the best thing to do is to leave 
alone any asbestos material that is in good condition. Generally, material in good condition will 
not release asbestos fibers. There is no danger unless the asbestos is disturbed and its fibers 
are released and then inhaled into the lungs. Check the material regularly if you suspect it may 
contain asbestos. Don't touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage, such as tears, abrasions, 
and water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if 
you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air 
flow. Sometimes, the best way to deal with slightly damaged material is to limit access to the 
area and not touch or disturb it. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stovetop 
pads, and 
ironing board covers. Check with local health, environmental or other appropriate agencies to 
find out about proper handling and disposal procedures. 
cement sheet, millboard, and paper used as insulation around furnaces and woodburning 
stoves. Repairing or removing appliances may release asbestos fibers, and so may cutting, 
tearing, sanding, drilling, or sawing insulation; 
door gaskets in furnaces, wood stoves and coal stoves. Worn seals can release asbestos fibers 
during use; 
soundproofing or decorative material sprayed on walls and ceilings. Loose, crumbly or waterdamaged 
material may release fibers, and so will sanding, drilling or scraping the material; 
patching and joint compounds for walls and ceilings, and textured paints. Sanding, scraping or 
drilling these surfaces may release asbestos fibers; 
asbestos cement roofing, shingles and siding. These products are not likely to release asbestos 
fibers unless sawed, drilled or cut; 
artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gasfired 
fireplaces, and other older household 
products, such as fireproof gloves, stovetop 
pads, ironing board covers, and certain hairdryers; 
Some roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos cement. 
Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as insulation. 
Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling 
joints. Their use was banned in 1977. 
Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gasfired 
fireplaces may contain asbestos. 
Older products, such as stovetop 
pads, may contain some asbestos compounds. 
Walls and floors around woodburning 
stoves may be protected with asbestos paper, millboard, 
or cement sheets. 
Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives. 
Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated with an asbestos material or covered 
with an asbestos blanket or tape. 
If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your 
home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your 
house remodeled, find out whether asbestos materials are present. 
How to Identify Materials That Contain Asbestos 
You can't tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If 
in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos, or have it sampled and analyzed by a 
qualified professional. A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional 
knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if its fibers are 
released. In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material 
alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended. If you nevertheless choose to take the 
samples yourself, take care not to release any asbestos fibers into the air or onto yourself. 
Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should 
be left alone. Only material that is damaged and is in a friable state and material that will be 
disturbed should be sampled. Anyone who samples asbestoscontaining 
materials should have 
as much information as possible on its proper handling beforehand. 
When sampling asbestos for lab analysis, the person should observe the following procedures: 
Make sure no one else is in the room when the sampling is done. 
Wear disposable gloves and wash hands after sampling. 
Shut down any heating or cooling systems to minimize the spread of any airborne fibers. 
Do not disturb the material any more than is necessary to take a small sample. 
Place a plastic sheet on the floor below the area to be sampled. 
Wet the material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent before taking the 
sample. The water/detergent mist will reduce the release of asbestos fibers into the air. 
Carefully cut a piece from the entire depth of the material using a small knife, corer or other 
sharp object. Place the small piece into a clean container, such as a 35mm 
film canister, small 
glass or plastic vial, or a highquality 
plastic bag. 
Tightly seal the container after placing the sample in it. 
Carefully dispose of the plastic sheet. Use a damp paper towel to clean up any material on the 
outside of the container and around the area sampled. Dispose of asbestos materials according 
to state and local procedures. 
Label the container with an identification number and clearly state when and from where the 
sample was taken. 
Patch the sampled area with the smallest possible piece of duct tape to prevent fiber release. 
Send the sample to an asbestos analysis laboratory accredited by the National Voluntary 
Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) at the National Institute of Standards and 
Technology (NIST). Your state or local health department may also be able to help. 
How to Manage an Asbestos Problem 
If the asbestos material is in undamaged condition and is not going to be disturbed, do nothing. 
If it is a problem, there are two types of corrections: repair and removal. Repair usually involves 
either sealing or covering asbestos material. Sealing or encapsulation involves treating the 
material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so 
that fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace and boiler insulation can sometimes be repaired this 
way. This should be done only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely. Covering or 
enclosure involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to 
prevent the release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective wrap 
or jacket. With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place. Repair is usually cheaper than 
removal, but it may make removal of asbestos later (if found to be necessary) more difficult and 
costly. Repairs can be major or minor. Major repairs must be done only by a professional trained 
in methods for safely handling asbestos. Minor repairs should also be done by professionals, 
since there is always a risk of exposure to fibers when asbestos is disturbed. 
Doing minor repairs yourself is not recommended, since improper handling of asbestos 
materials can create a hazard where none existed previously. If you choose to do minor repairs 
yourself, you should have as much information as possible on the safe handling of asbestos 
beforehand. Contact your state or local health department or regional EPA office for information 
about asbestos training programs in your area. Your local school district may also have 
information about asbestos professionals and training programs. Even if you have completed a 
training program, do not try anything more than minor repairs. Before undertaking minor repairs, 
carefully examine the area around the damage to make sure it is stable. As a general rule, any 
damaged area that is bigger than the size of your hand is not considered a minor repair. 
Before undertaking minor repairs, be sure to follow all the precautions described previously for 
sampling asbestos material. Always wet the asbestos material using a fine mist of water 
containing a few drops of detergent. Commercial products designed to fill holes and seal 
damaged areas are available. Small areas of material, such as pipe insulation, can be covered 
by wrapping a special fabric, such as rewettable 
glass cloth, around it. These products are 
available from stores (listed in the directory under "Safety Equipment and Clothing") that 
specialize in asbestos materials and safety items. 
Removal is usually the most expensive method and, unless required by state or local 
regulations, should be the last option considered in most situations. This is because removal 
poses the greatest risk of fiber release. However, removal may be required when remodeling or 
making major changes to your home that will disturb asbestos material. Also, removal may be 
called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. 
Removal is complex and must be done only by a contractor with special training. Improper 
removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family. 
Asbestos Professionals: Who Are They and What Can They Do? 
Asbestos professionals are trained in handling asbestos material. The type of professional will 
depend on the type of product and what needs to be done to correct the problem. You may hire 
a general asbestos contractor or, in some cases, a professional trained to handle specific 
products containing asbestos. 
Asbestos professionals can conduct inspections, take samples of suspected material, assess its 
condition, and advise on the corrections that are needed, as well as the specific personnel 
qualified to make these corrections. Once again, material in good condition need not be 
sampled unless it is likely to be disturbed. Professional correction or abatement contractors 
repair and remove asbestos materials. 
Some firms offer combinations of testing, assessment and correction. A professional hired to 
assess the need for corrective action should not be connected with an asbestoscorrection 
It is better to use two different firms so that there is no conflict of interest. Services vary from 
one area to another around the U.S. 
The federal government offers training courses for asbestos professionals around the country. 
Some state and local governments also offer or require training or certification courses. Ask 
your asbestos professional to document their completion of federalor 
Each person performing work in your home should provide proof of training and licensing in 
asbestos work, such as completion of EPAapproved 
training. State and local health 
departments or EPA regional offices may have listings of licensed professionals in your area. 
If you have a problem that requires the services of asbestos professionals, check their 
credentials carefully. Hire professionals who are trained, experienced, reputable and accredited 
if accreditation is required by state or local laws. Before hiring a professional, ask 
for references from previous clients. Find out if they were satisfied. Ask whether the professional 
has handled similar situations. Get cost estimates from several professionals, as the charges for 
these services can vary. 
Though private homes are usually not covered by the asbestos regulations that apply to schools 
and other public buildings, asbestos professionals should still use the procedures described in 
training. Homeowners should be alert to the chance of misleading 
claims by asbestos consultants and contractors. There have been reports of firms incorrectly 
claiming that asbestos materials in homes must be replaced. In other cases, firms have 
encouraged unnecessary removal or performed it improperly. Unnecessary removal is a waste 
of money. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family. To 
guard against this, know what services are available and what procedures and precautions are 
needed to do the job properly. 
In addition to general asbestos contractors, you may select a roofing, flooring or plumbing 
contractor trained to handle asbestos when it is necessary to remove and replace roofing, 
flooring, siding or asbestoscement 
pipe that is part of a plumbing system. Normally, roofing and 
flooring contractors are exempt from state and local licensing requirements because they do not 
perform any other asbestoscorrection 
automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings, and gaskets should be 
repaired and replaced only by a professional using special protective equipment. Many of these 
products are now available without asbestos. 
If you hire a Certified Master Inspector® who is trained in asbestos inspection: 
Make sure an inspecting firm makes frequent site visits if it is hired to assure that a contractor 
follows proper procedures and requirements during a construction or remodeling project. The 
inspector may recommend and perform checks after the correction to assure that the area has 
been properly cleaned. 
If you hire a correctiveaction 
Make sure that the inspection will include a complete visual examination, and the careful 
collection and lab analysis of samples. If asbestos is present, the inspector should provide a 
written evaluation describing its location and extent of damage, and give recommendations for 
Check with your local air pollution control board, the local agency responsible for worker safety, 
and the Better Business Bureau. Ask if the firm has had any safety violations. Find out if there 
have been any legal actions filed against it. 
Insist that the contractor use the proper equipment to do the job. The workers must wear 
approved respirators, gloves, and other protective clothing. 
Before work begins, get a written contract specifying the work plan, cleanup, and the applicable 
federal, state and local regulations which the contractor must follow (such as notification 
requirements and asbestos disposal procedures). Contact your state and local health 
departments, EPA regional office, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's 
regional office to find out what the regulations are. Be sure the contractor follows local asbestos 
removal and disposal laws. At the end of the job, get written assurance from the contractor that 
all proper and mandated procedures have been followed. 
Assure that the contractor avoids spreading or tracking asbestos dust into other areas of your 
home. They should seal off the work area from the rest of the house using plastic sheeting and 
duct tape, and also turn off the heating and air conditioning system. For some repairs, such as 
pipe insulation removal, plastic bags may be adequate. They must be sealed with tape and 
properly disposed of when the job is completed. 
Make sure the work site is clearly marked as a hazardous area. Do not allow household 
members or pets into the area until the work is completed. 
Insist that the contractor apply a wetting agent to the asbestos material before removal using a 
hand sprayer that creates a fine mist. Wet fibers do not float in the air as easily as dry fibers and 
will be easier to clean up. 
Make sure the contractor does not break removed material into smaller pieces. This could 
release asbestos fibers into the air. Pipe insulation was usually installed in preformed 
and should be removed in complete pieces. 
Upon project completion, assure that the contractor cleans the area well with wet mops, wet 
rags, sponges and/or HEPA (highefficiency 
particulate air) filter vacuum cleaners. A regular 
household vacuum cleaner must never be used with asbestos. Wetting helps reduce the chance 
of spreading asbestos fibers in the air. All asbestos materials and disposable equipment and 
clothing used in the job must be placed in sealed, leakproof, 
and labeled plastic bags. The work 
site should be visually free of dust and debris. Air monitoring (to make sure there is no increase 
of asbestos fibers in the air) may be necessary to assure that the contractor's job was done 
properly. Monitoring should be done by someone not connected with the contractor to avoid a 
potential conflict of interest. 
Do not dust, sweep or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. These actions will disturb tiny 
asbestos fibers and may release them into the air. Remove any dust by wetmopping 
or with a 
special HEPAfilter 
vacuum cleaner used by trained asbestos contractors. 
Asbestos Cement Siding 
Asbestos cement is a composite material consisting of Portland cement reinforced with 
asbestos fibers. When manufacturers figured out ways to produce siding using asbestos 
cement, it became very popular for a number of years before being banned in the U.S. in the 
Asbestos cement first came into use as an exterior cladding after 1907, when Austrian engineer 
Ludwig Hatschek came up with a way to shape the material into sheets, allowing it to be 
manufactured as siding and shingles. By the 1920s, the National Board of Fire Underwriters 
recommended that asbestos cement replace wood as siding and roofing material because of its 
superior fireresistant 
properties. This recommendation from a nationally known insurance board 
contributed to a boost in sales and, by the 1940s, hundreds of thousands of homes in the U.S. 
had been constructed using asbestos cement siding. 
During the late 1960s and early ‘70s, however, the news media began to report on the health 
hazards associated with asbestos. As reports increased, concern grew, so the federal 
government took action and, in 1973, the EPA banned the use of asbestos in the manufacture 
of building products. 
Health Risks Associated with Asbestos Cement 
Asbestos fibers are a proven health hazard if inhaled. Asbestos dust is a known cause of a type 
of lung disease called asbestosis. Mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that attacks the 
internal organs, can also be caused by exposure to asbestos. However, asbestos cement siding 
that has been properly installed and is not in a state of decay presents no health risks as long 
as it remains undisturbed. This is because the cement binds the asbestos fibers and prevents 
their release into the air, under normal installation and maintenance. 
The EPA deems asbestos to be hazardous when it is in a friable state, meaning that it can be 
crumbled, crushed or pulverized by hand pressure. Crushed asbestos in a powdery form can 
allow its particles to become airborne and then inhaled, causing potential health problems. 
Asbestos cement products that are not in a friable state are not considered hazardous. The only 
potential danger is when the cement is disturbed in a way that causes the asbestos fibers to 
become airborne. 
If mechanical activities performed on the siding, such as chipping, sawing, grinding or sanding, 
allow particles to become airborne, then the cement is considered to be in a friable state and, 
consequently, hazardous. Deterioration can also lead to particles becoming airborne and 
potentially dangerous. 
Unlike more porous siding materials, such as wood clapboard, asbestos cement siding will not 
quickly soak up paint, which allows it to be painted more easily. 
Asbestos cement siding is highly fireresistant 
and will not burn or melt the way vinyl and wood 
siding will. 
It resists termite damage. 
It resists rotting. 
It has been manufactured with textures intended to simulate the look of other cladding materials, 
such as wood grain. 
It is fairly easy to clean and maintain. 
Asbestos cement siding is very brittle and can be easily chipped, cracked and broken. 
It is no longer considered aesthetically desirable. 
Damage and deterioration can lead to structural and health issues, so proper maintenance of 
asbestos cement building materials is a primary concern. Keeping the siding clean and 
performing any minor repairs as soon as they become necessary are both important. 
Asbestos cement siding is fairly brittle and has little resistance to cracking, chipping and 
damage from impact, which can cause asbestos particles to become airborne. Damage to the 
siding can also lead to other damage related to moisture intrusion. Damaged areas that cannot 
be fixed can be replaced with nonasbestos 
fiber cement by a professional. Specific fiber 
cement materials have been manufactured for repairs that are intended to mimic the look of 
asbestos cement siding. 
Landscaping features, such as a row of shrubs, can be incorporated around the home to help 
protect the siding from impact damage. 
Inspection Tips 
Here are some common problems associated with asbestos cement siding that homeowners 
are likely to encounter: 
Biological growth, such as moss and algae, can occur if conditions are favorable. This growth 
may stimulate surface deterioration and staining. 
Knowing some of the health risks associated with this material can be useful when deciding to 
use or replace it, although any specific concerns should be deferred to the appropriate 
construction and healthcare professionals. 
The use of a pressure washer for maintenance can crack the siding and lead to moisture 
intrusion, if the pressure setting is too high. 
Asbestos cement can be dangerous if pulverized by sawing, sanding, breaking, etc. 
It is difficult to find replacement siding for repairs. 
This product cannot be refurbished, unlike other forms of siding. Wood clapboard, for example, 
can be sanded and repainted, 
and cedar shake siding can be sandblasted 
and restained. 
Either of these methods can restore wood close to its original state. But this is not possible with 
asbestos cement siding. 
Chipping and cracking often occur with this brittle material. 
Fasteners used to hold the siding in place may deteriorate at a faster rate than the siding. 
Discoloration and staining may occur from corrosion or runoff from an adjacent material. The 
discoloration may be normal, but it could also indicate a chemical reaction that has decreased 
the durability of the material. 
Like many other cement products, efflorescence may appear on asbestos cement siding. This 
crystalline growth can indicate that water is passing through the material, promoting 
deterioration of the cement. 
Lead Facts 
Did you know the following facts about lead? 
FACT: Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born. FACT: 
Even children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies. FACT: You can 
get lead in your body by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint 
chips containing lead. FACT: You have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most 
cases, leadbased 
paint that is in good 
condition is not a hazard. FACT: Removing leadbased 
paint improperly can increase the 
danger to your family. 
If you think your home might have lead hazards, read on to learn about lead and some simple 
steps to protect your family. 
Health Effects of Lead 
Childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the U.S. 
Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies. 
People can get lead in their body if they: 
o put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths; o eat paint chips or soil 
that contains lead; or o breathe in lead dust, especially during renovations that disturb painted 
Lead is even more dangerous to children than to adults because: 
o babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. 
These objects can have lead dust on them; o children's growing bodies can absorb more 
lead; and o children's brains and central nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging 
effects of lead. 
If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from: 
o damage to the brain and nervous system; o behavioral and learning problems (such as 
hyperactivity); o slowed growth; o hearing problems; and o headaches. 
Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from: 
o difficulties during pregnancy; o other reproductive problems (in both men and women); o high 
blood pressure; o digestive problems; o nerve disorders; o memory and concentration problems; 
and o muscle and joint pain. 
Where is Lead Found? 
In general, the older your home, the more likely it has leadbased 
Many homes built before 1978 have leadbased 
paint. The federal government banned 
paint from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use even earlier. 
Lead can be found: 
in folk remedies that contain lead, such as greta and azarcon used to treat an upset stomach. 
Where is lead likely to be a hazard? 
in homes in the city, country and suburbs; 
on apartments, singlefamily 
homes, and both private and public housing complexes; 
on the interior and exterior of the house; 
in the soil around a home. Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint and other sources, such as 
past use of leaded gas in cars; 
in household dust. Dust can pick up lead from deteriorating leadbased 
paint and from soil 
tracked into a home; 
in drinking water. Your home may have plumbing that uses lead pipes or lead solder. Call your 
local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, 
smell or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of it. If you think your plumbing might 
have lead in it: 
o Use only cold water for drinking and cooking. o Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before 
drinking it, especially if you have not used your 
water for a few hours. 
on the job. If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and 
change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of your 
family's clothes; 
in old (vintage or antique) painted toys and furniture; 
in food and liquids stored in lead crystal, and leadglazed 
pottery and porcelain; 
from lead smelters and other industries that release lead into the air; 
with hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture; and 
Lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can't always see, can be 
serious hazards. 
Peeling, chipping, chalking and cracking leadbased 
paint is a hazard and needs immediate 
paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that 
endure a lot of wear and tear. These areas include: 
o windows and window sills; o doors and door frames; o stairs, railings and banisters; and o 
porches and fences. 
Note: Leadbased 
paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard. 
Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil, or when people bring soil into the 
house on their shoes. 
Checking Your Family and Home for Lead 
Just knowing that a home has leadbased 
paint may not tell you if there is a hazard. 
To reduce your child’s exposure to lead, get your child checked, have your home tested 
(especially if your home has paint in poor condition and was built before 1978), and fix any 
hazards you may have. 
Your Family 
Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children. A simple blood test can detect high 
levels of lead. Blood tests are important for: 
o children at ages 1 to 2; o children and other family members who have been exposed to high 
levels of lead; and o children who should be tested under your state or local health screening 
Your doctor can explain what the test results mean and if more testing will be needed. 
Your Home 
You can get your home checked in one of two ways (or both): 
A risk assessment tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure, such as peeling 
paint and lead dust. It also tells you what actions to take to address such hazards. 
Have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in place for certifying leadbased 
paint professionals to ensure that their work is done safely, reliably and effectively. Be sure to 
ask your Certified Master Inspector® about lead paint during your next inspection. Trained 
professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including: 
Lead dust can form when leadbased 
paint is dryscraped, 
or heated. Dust also 
forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces 
and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can reenter 
the air when people vacuum, 
sweep or walk through it. 
Have your children and home tested if you think your home has high levels of lead. 
Children’s blood lead levels tend to increase rapidly from 6 to 12 months of age, and tend to 
peak at 18 to 24 months of age. 
A paint inspection tells you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your 
home. It won't tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it, though. 
a visual inspection of paint condition and location; 
a portable Xray 
fluorescence (XRF) machine; 
lab tests of paint samples; and 
Note: Home test kits for lead are available, but studies suggest that they are not always 
accurate. Consumers should not rely on these tests before doing renovations or to assure 
What You Can Do to Protect Your Family 
If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce 
your family's risk: 
Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge or 
paper towel with warm water and a general allpurpose 
cleaner, or a cleaner made specifically 
for lead. 
Make sure children eat nutritious meals high in iron and calcium, such as spinach and dairy 
products. Children with balanced diets absorb less lead. 
In addition to daytoday 
cleaning and good nutrition, you can temporarily reduce lead hazards 
by taking actions such as repairing damaged and painted surfaces, and by planting grass to 
cover soil with high lead levels. These actions, called interim controls, are not permanent 
solutions and will need ongoing attention. To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a 
certified leadabatement 
contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods 
include removing, sealing or enclosing leadbased 
paint with special materials. Just painting 
over the hazard with leadfree 
paint is not enough. Always hire a person with special training for 
correcting lead problems someone 
who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper 
equipment to clean it up thoroughly. Certified contractors employ qualified workers and follow 
strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government. To be safe, hire a Certified Master 
Inspector® trained in lead detection for your next inspection. 
Are you planning to buy or rent a home built before 1978? 
Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead (leadbased 
Lead from paint, chips and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly. 
Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting or buying 
If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint. 
Clean up paint chips immediately. 
Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty and dusty areas. 
Wash children's hands often, especially before they eat, and before nap time and bed time. 
Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys and stuffed animals regularly. 
Keep children from chewing window sills and other painted surfaces. 
Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil outside. 
Residential LeadBased 
Paint Disclosure Program 
o Landlords have to disclose known information on leadbased 
paint and leadbased 
hazards before leases take effect. Leases must include a disclosure form about leadbased 
o Sellers have to disclose known information about their property’s leadbased 
paint and 
paint hazards before selling their house. Sales contracts must include a disclosure 
form about leadbased 
paint. Buyers have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards. 
If not conducted properly, certain types of renovations can release lead from paint and dust into 
the air. 
Take precautions before you or your contractor begins remodeling or renovations that disturb 
painted surfaces (such as scraping off paint or tearing out walls). 
o Have the area tested for leadbased 
paint. o Do not use a beltsander, 
propane torch, heat 
gun, dry scraper, or dry sandpaper to 
remove leadbased 
paint. These actions create large amounts of lead dust and fumes. o 
Lead dust can remain in your home long after the work is done. o Temporarily move your family 
(especially children and pregnant women) out of the 
apartment or house until the work is done and the area is properly cleaned. If you can't move 
your family, at least completely seal off the work area with plastic sheeting and duct tape. o If 
you have already completed renovations or remodeling that could have released leadbased 
paint or dust, get your young children tested and follow the steps outlined to protect your family. 
Formaldehyde is a colorless, pungentsmelling 
chemical widely used in industries that 
manufacture building materials and numerous household products. Thus, it may be present in 
substantial concentrations in indoor environments. 
Where can formaldehyde be found indoors? 
Education Program (PRE) 
o Renovators have to give you a pamphlet titled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your 
Home” before starting work. 
products (such as hardwood plywood wall paneling, particleboard and 
fiberboard), and furniture made with these pressedwood 
products. Mobile homes are especially 
at risk for indoor formaldehyde pollution because of their abundance of composite wood in 
construction, and relatively compact interior space; 
carpet backing and ureaformaldehyde 
foam insulation (UFFI). In the 1970s, many homes were 
insulated with UFFI as an energyconservation 
measure before it was discovered that UFFI 
contained dangerously high levels of formaldehyde. Fortunately, formaldehyde emissions in this 
product decline over time, so older houses with UFFI are unlikely to have high levels of 
formaldehyde now. This insulation is not very common in modern housing; 
tobacco smoke; 
drapes and other textiles; 
appliances, such gas stoves and kerosene space heaters; and 
Is it dangerous? 
Years after concerns arose over high levels of formaldehyde found in some FEMA trailers used 
as emergency housing for disaster victims, there is still a great deal of confusion regarding 
permissible levels of airborne formaldehyde in indoor environments. 
Formaldehyde is known to cause the following conditions: 
cancer. Uncertainty remains as to how to compare measured air concentrations of 
formaldehyde to cancer incidence. No definitive "highrisk" 
level can be drawn because many 
other factors besides formaldehyde exposure play a role in the development of cancer. In 
general, however, the lower the level and shorter the duration of exposure, the less risk of 
cancer and other health effects there are. 
In 1992, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) declared formaldehyde a “toxic air 
contaminant,” meaning that there is no safe level of exposure. In June 2004, the International 
Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified formaldehyde from “probably carcinogenic 
to humans” to “carcinogenic to humans,” specifically concerning nasopharyngeal (upper throat) 
cancer, while the National Toxicology Program (NTP) continues to classify formaldehyde as 
“reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen in humans” for that disease. 
Steps to Reduce Exposure 
Seal nonlaminated 
surfaces of products containing formaldehyde with paints, varnish or 
In summary, formaldehyde is an irritating and potentially dangerous gas that may accumulate in 
indoor environments. 
Carbon Monoxide 
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from the incomplete 
combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal. 
watery eyes; 
burning sensations in the eyes and throat; 
wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing; 
asthma attacks; 
skin rashes; 
severe allergic reactions; and 
Use exteriorgrade 
products, which are loweremitting 
because they contain 
phenol resins, not urea resins. 
Use air conditioning and dehumidifiers to maintain a moderate temperature and reduce humidity 
Increase ventilation, particularly after bringing new sources of formaldehyde indoors. 
Facts and Figures 
Out of all reported nonfire 
incidents, 89% or almost nine out of 10 of them 
take place in a home. 
Physiology of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning 
When CO is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen that would ordinarily bind with hemoglobin, a 
process that effectively suffocates the body. CO can poison slowly over a period of several 
hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer 
the most from a lack of oxygen. 
High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, 
it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 
parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health effects. The limit of 
CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety 
Administration, is 50 ppm. 
Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide 
Any fuelburning 
appliances that are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of 
CO, such as: 
Nearly 500 people in the U.S. died between 2001 and 2003 from nonfirerelated 
Most CO exposure occurs during the winter months, especially in December (including 56 
deaths and 2,157 nonfatal 
exposures between 2001 and 2003), and in January (including 69 
deaths and 2,511 nonfatal 
exposures). The peak time of day for CO exposure is between 6 and 
10 p.m. 
Many experts believe that CO poisoning statistics understate the problem. Because the 
symptoms of CO poisoning mimic a range of common health ailments, it is likely that many mild 
to midlevel 
exposures are never identified, diagnosed, or accounted for in any way in carbon 
monoxide statistics. 
stoves and ovens; 
water heaters; 
clothes dryers; 
room and space heaters; 
fireplaces and wood stoves; 
gas and charcoal grills; 
clogged chimneys and flues; 
power tools that run on fuel; 
certain types of swimming pool heaters; and 
boat engines. 
0 0% 
No effects; this is the normal level in a properly operating heating appliance 
35 0.0035% 
Maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eighthour 
work shift 
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 
50 0.005% 
Maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eighthour 
work shift 
100 0.01% 
Slight headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, errors in judgment 
125 0.0125% 
Workplace alarm must sound (OSHA) 
200 0.02% 
Headache, dizziness 
fatigue, nausea, 
400 0.04% 
Severe headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion; can be lifethreatening 
after three 
hours of exposure 
Evacuate area immediately 
800 0.08% 
Convulsions, loss of consciousness; death within three hours 
Evacuate area immediately 
12,000 1.2% Nearly instant death 
CO Detector Placement 
detectors can monitor CO exposure levels, but do not place them: 
directly above or beside fuelburning 
appliances, as the appliances may emit a small amount of 
carbon monoxide upon startup; 
within 15 feet of heating and cooking appliances, or in or near very humid areas, such as 
within 5 feet of kitchen stoves and ovens, or near areas where household chemicals and bleach 
are stored (store such chemicals away from bathrooms and kitchens, whenever possible); 
in garages, kitchens, furnace rooms, or in any extremely dusty, dirty, humid, or greasy areas; 
in direct sunlight, or in areas subjected to temperature extremes. These include unconditioned 
crawlspaces, unfinished attics, uninsulated 
or poorly insulated ceilings, and porches; or 
% CO in air 
Health Effects in Healthy Adults 
in turbulent air near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, freshair 
returns, or open windows. 
Blowing air may prevent carbon monoxide from reaching the CO sensors. 
Do place CO detectors: 
on the ceiling in the same room as permanently installed fuelburning 
appliances, and centrally 
located on every habitable level, and in every HVAC zone of the building. This rule applies to 
commercial buildings. 
In North America, some national, state and local municipalities require installation of CO 
detectors in new and existing homes, as well as commercial businesses, including: Illinois, 
Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New York City, and the Canadian 
province of Ontario. Installers are encouraged to check with their local municipality to determine 
the specific requirements that have been enacted in their jurisdiction. 
How can I prevent CO poisoning? 
within 10 feet of each bedroom door and near all sleeping areas, where it can awaken sleeping 
household members. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters 
Laboratories (UL) recommend that every home have at least one carbon monoxide detector for 
each floor of the home, and within hearing range of each sleeping area; 
on every floor of your home, including the basement; 
near or over any attached garage. Carbonmonoxide 
detectors are affected by excessive 
humidity and by close proximity to gas stoves; 
near, but not directly above, combustion appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, and 
in the garage; and 
Purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors with labels showing that they meet the 
requirements of the new UL Standard 2034 or Comprehensive Safety Analysis 6.19 safety 
Make sure that appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturers’ 
instructions and local building codes. Have the heating system professionally inspected by a 
Certified Master Inspector® and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector 
should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete 
disconnections, and loose connections. 
Never service fuelburning 
appliances without the proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always 
refer to the owner's manual when performing minor adjustments and when servicing fuelburning 
Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline enginepowered 
tool either in or near 
an enclosed space, such as a garage, house, or other building. Even with the doors and 
windows open, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build up to lethal levels. 
Never use portable fuelburning 
camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent 
unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe 
use in an enclosed area. 
Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent. 
Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open. 
Never use gas appliances, such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers, to heat your home. 
Never operate unvented 
appliances in any room where people are sleeping. 
Check vents. Regularly inspect your home's external vents to ensure they are not blocked by 
debris, dirt or snow. 
In summary, carbon monoxide is a dangerous poison that can be created by various household 
appliances. Carbonmonoxide 
detectors must be placed strategically throughout the home or 
business in order to alert occupants of high levels of the gas. 
Backdrafting is the reverse flow of gas in the flues of fuelfired 
appliances that results in the 
intrusion of combustion byproducts into the living space. Many fuelfired 
water heaters and 
boilers use household air and lack an induced draft, which makes them especially vulnerable to 
backdrafting when indoor air pressure becomes unusually low. Homeowners should try to spot 
evidence of backdrafting in their homes. 
How does backdrafting happen? 
water heaters, boilers, wall heaters, and furnaces are designed to exhaust the 
byproducts of combustion to the outdoors through a flue. These hot gases rise through the flue 
and exit the home because they are not as dense as indoor air. The pressure differential that 
allows for the release of combustion gases can be overcome by unusually low indoor air 
pressure caused by a high rate of the expulsion of air to the outdoors through exhaust fans, 
fireplaces and dryers. When this happens, combustion gases can be sucked back into the 
house and may potentially harm or kill the home’s occupants. Improperly configured flues and 
flue blockages can also cause backdrafting. 
How can homeowners test for backdrafting? 
During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or 
debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are completed. 
Do not place generators in the garage or close to the home. People lose power in their homes 
and get so excited about using their gaspowered 
generator that they don't pay attention to 
where it is placed. The owner's manual should explain how far the generator should be from the 
Clean the chimney. Open the hatch at the bottom of the chimney to remove the ashes. Hire a 
chimney sweep annually. 
The homeowner can release smoke or powder into a draft diverter to see whether it gets sucked 
into the duct or if it spills back into the room. A smoke pencil or a chemical puffer can be used to 
safely simulate smoke. 
The homeowner can hold a lighter beside the draft diverter to see whether there is sufficient 
draft to pull the flame in the direction of the flue. 
Sealed Combustion The combustion and venting systems are completely sealed off from 
household air. Combustion air is drawn in from the outdoors through a pipe that is designed for 
that purpose. The potential for backdrafting is nearly eliminated because the rate of ventilation is 
not influenced by indoor air pressure, and the vented gas has no pathway into the home. 
Water Heater Location 
The installation of fuelfired 
water heaters in certain household locations can increase the 
chances of personal harm caused by backdrafting. The 2006 edition of the International 
Residential Code (IRC) states the following concerning improper location: 
Combustion gases that backdraft 
into a house may leave a dark residue on the top of the water 
heater. The presence of soot is an indication of backdrafting, although its absence does not 
guarantee that backdrafting has not happened. 
A carbon monoxide analyzer can be used to test for backdrafting of that gas. Your Certified 
Master Inspector® may be properly trained to use one during an actual inspection, which will 
help to avoid getting false negatives. 
While the CMI performs these tests, it is helpful if the homeowner turns on all devices that vent 
air to the outdoors in order to simulate worstcase 
conditions. Such appliances include clothes 
dryers, and bathroom and kitchen vent fans. 
Types of FuelFired 
Water Heaters: 
Atmospheric Draft Most backdrafting is the result of the characteristics of this type of water 
heater. Combustion gases rise through the ventilation duct solely by the force of convection, 
which may not be strong enough to counter the pull from dips in indoor air pressure. 
Induced Draft This system incorporates a fan that creates a controlled draft. The potential for 
backdrafting is reduced because the induced draft is usually strong enough to overcome any 
competing pull from a drop in indoor air pressure. 
water heaters shall not be installed in a room used as a storage closet. Water heaters 
located in a bedroom or bathroom shall be installed in a sealed enclosure so that combustion air 
will not be taken from the living space. 
Fireplace Fuel 
Fireplaces and wood stoves are designed to burn only one type of fuel. If improperly used as 
incinerators, these devices can pose the following hazards: 
Burning inappropriate fuel can cause mechanical damage. Chimneys can become lined with 
residue from inappropriate items, which may lead to a dangerous chimney fire. The fumes from 
certain items will quickly wear out sensitive components, such as catalytic combustors in wood 
Read the following guidelines to better understand what can and cannot be safely burned in a 
residential fireplace or wood stove. 
What can be burned in a fireplace? 
Harmful vapors can vent into the living space. Even the most efficient fireplaces will vent directly 
into the living space while they’re opened and closed for cleaning and refueling, exposing 
everyone in the house to potentially dangerous fumes. 
Harmful vapors will vent to the outdoors. Most newer fireplaces and wood stoves do an 
excellent job of funneling smoke and fumes to the outdoors, but the problem doesn’t end there; 
this pollution persists, contaminating household and environmental air. 
dried, cut firewood. An adequate fuel supply will consist of a mixture of hardwoods, such as 
maple and oak, and softwoods, such as fir and pine. Softwoods ignite quickly and are useful in 
the early stages of the fire, while hardwoods provide a longerlasting 
fire, and are best used 
after preheating 
the chimney. Despite the different burning characteristics of hardwoods and 
softwoods, which can be attributed to differences in density, the heatenergy 
released by 
burning wood is the same, regardless of species. To dry out wood, it should be stacked 
outdoors in an open area so that the sun can warm the pieces and the breezes can carry away 
the moisture. Poplar, spruce and other softwoods generally dry quickly, as do wood that has 
been split into small pieces. 
Adequately seasoned wood has a moisture content of less than 20%, which can be checked 
using the following indicators: 
o The wood has darkened from white or a cream color to yellow or grey. o There are cracks or 
checks in the endgrain. 
o A hollow sound is produced when two pieces of wood are banged 
together. o You can split a piece and feel if the new surface is damp or dry. o The wood does 
not hiss while burning. o You can check its moisture content using a moisture meter. 
fire logs. These artificial logs burn relatively cleanly and release less ash than their natural wood 
What should never be burned in a fireplace? 
pallets. Generally, pallets are safe to burn in fireplaces, although those that are treated with the 
fumigant methyl bromide (labeled with the initials MB) are unsafe to burn. Also, pallets may 
have been exposed to a variety of chemicals while they were in use. Aside from these concerns, 
pallets produce a hot flame because they’re usually very dry and their segments are thin. Be 
careful to check for nails while cutting pallets, as they may damage a saw blade. You may also 
wind up with nails in your ash, which should be disposed of far from roads and driveways. 
fallen tree limbs. These can generally be collected and used for kindling, provided they have 
been given time to dry. 
wood collected from housing developments. If it is truly trash and not someone's property 
(including the housing contractor's), using scavenged wood that has been cleared away for 
housing developments is good for burning. Try to obtain it before the nonlumber 
grade wood is 
pushed into massive piles and burned as a means of disposal by the contractor. 
painted wood. Paint contains heavy metals, such as lead, chromium and titanium, which are 
used to make the different colors. These metals, especially lead, can be toxic even in small 
quantities if inhaled. 
wood. Wood is commonly made resistant to fungus and insects through the 
addition of copper, chromate and arsenic, in a process known as CCA treatment. CCA 
treatment places roughly 27 grams of arsenic in every 12foot 
2x6, which is sufficient to kill 
about 250 adults, which is why it is illegal in the U.S. to burn pressuretreated 
wood. Vaporized 
CCA wood, known as fly ash, is extremely toxic; in one case, as reported by the American 
Medical Association, a family was stricken with seizures, hair loss, debilitating headaches, 
blackouts and nosebleeds from fly ash released when they unknowingly used CCA wood to 
burn in their fireplace. Even the family’s houseplants and fish succumbed to the toxic fumes. 
plywood, particleboard, and chipboard or OSB. These manmade woods release formaldehyde, 
and possibly also hydrochloric acid and dioxin when burned. Some states have outlawed the 
incineration of some or all of these artificial wood products. 
rotted, diseased or moldy wood. This wood will not burn as long as healthy wood. It may 
produce bad smells when burned, and could bring insects into the house. 
damp wood. Wood that has a moisture content higher than 20% will burn inefficiently and will 
contribute to a greater accumulation of creosote in the chimney, as well as air pollution. 
allergenic plants. Urushiol is the chemical that induces a minor allergic reaction when skin is 
exposed to poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak, but it’s far more dangerous when inhaled. 
Urushiol is not destroyed by fire and can quickly cause lifethreatening 
respiratory distress if any 
of these plants are burned. 
dryer lint. While it’s often used effectively as a firestarter, 
lint can contain a wide array of 
dangerous chemicals that come from your clothes and fabric softener. 
trash. Never burn household garbage, as it contains a range of potentially hazardous materials 
and chemicals that react in unpredictable ways when burned together. Newspaper ink, plastics, 
aluminum foil, plastic baggies, and whatever else constitutes your particular trash can create a 
deadly chemical cocktail. 
driftwood. Wood found on the beach of an ocean or salty lake will release salt when burned, 
which will quickly corrode any metal and etch the glass of a wood stove or fireplace. 
Catalytic converters are especially vulnerable to salt corrosion. In addition to potential damage 
to the stove or fireplace, the EPA claims that driftwood releases toxic chemicals when burned. 
In summary, use only approved and appropriate fuel to burn in your fireplace or wood stove. 
Certain items should never be burned because they can cause problems ranging from minor 
irritation to a hazardous health threat to your family. 
Ventless Fireplaces 
Ventless fireplaces, more accurately known as ductfree 
fireplaces and roomventing 
are a type of residential gasheating 
appliance. Ventless fireplaces are preferred because they 
burn at nearly 100% efficiency, release far less harmful gases than most other heating 
alternatives, and their installation is restricted minimally by architectural constraints. 
They are controversial, however. Despite their name, they vent unburned combustion 
byproducts directly into the living space. Traditional fireplaces, by contrast, are equipped with a 
flue that vents to the outdoors, saving humans and their pets from exposure to the bulk of the 
carbon monoxide (CO) and airborne particulates created by the fire. As a less serious yet still 
important side effect, ventless fireplaces create high levels of water vapor, which can lead to 
mold growth and a variety of other moisturerelated 
structural problems. Mold can be a serious 
health hazard for atrisk 
individuals, and it can damage fabric, photographs, books, and building 
To mitigate CO dangers, manufacturers instruct consumers to keep a window open while their 
ventless fireplace is in operation – advice that is easy to ignore, as an open window allows the 
entry of cold air, defeating the efforts of the fireplace to warm the living space. Many 
manufacturers also install an oxygendetection 
sensor (ODS) in their ventless fireplace that will 
automatically shut down the appliance if oxygen levels in the home become dangerously low. 
Critics point out that this sensor is typically located at the lower part of the unit near the floor, 
where it detects cool, fresh, oxygenfilled 
air and misses hot combustion gases as they rise and 
pool toward the ceiling. And if the sensor fails, any COproducing 
abnormality experienced by 
the fireplace will continue unnoticed and potentially harm the home’s occupants. 
Massachusetts, California, and several other states in the U.S., as well as Canada and other 
countries, have outlawed ventless gas fireplaces due to the aforementioned safety concerns. 
Many individual municipalities, too, have outlawed these appliances in states where they are 
otherwise legal. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development bans ventless 
fireplaces in their housing, and advisements against the use of these appliances have been 
issued by various watchdog groups, such as the American Lung Association, the Centers for 
Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, 
and even the Mayo Clinic. In particular, these organizations warn against exposure of 
individuals who are particularly vulnerable to CO – namely, the elderly, pregnant women, small 
children, those with preexisting 
cardiovascular difficulties, and small pets. To be fair, there 
have been no documented cases of fatalities caused by ODSequipped 
ventless fireplaces, 
according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 
Ventless fireplaces can be inspected by your Certified Master Inspector® for the following safety 
a missing or defective ODS. As these components may fail, it is advisable to install a CO 
detector near a ventless fireplace and, ideally, in other rooms, as well, especially near 
In summary, ventless fireplaces, while attractive and portable, suffer from a design flaw that may 
allow dangerous gases to enter the living space. 
Mold Basics 
a gas leak. During production, installation or servicing, a leak can be created; 
plugged burner ports. The contractor may accidentally plug the burner ports while installing 
ceramic tile over the burners, or they may be painted over at the factory. The resulting 
unbalanced burn will create excessive carbon monoxide; 
a clogged burner. Dust, carpet lint, and pet hair can gradually choke off the fireplace’s air 
supply, leading to incomplete combustion and high amounts of CO that can vent into the living 
high gasinput 
rate. Excessive CO ventilation or overheating of the unit will result from firing the 
gas higher than the input rate set by the manufacturer’s specifications. This can be caused by 
high gassupply 
pressure, an incorrect orifice drill size done at the factory, or if the installer sets 
the unit’s flame larger for aesthetic reasons; 
the fireplace is oversized for the square footage of the area to be heated; 
a cracked burner. The gas burner may develop a crack over time and function erratically, 
producing high levels of CO; 
the fireplace contains items other than the artificial logs designed for the unit. Problems caused 
by the incineration of firewood or other flammable items will be immediate and extreme. A more 
likely and less obvious hazard is created by adding pebbles, lava rocks, and other noncombustible 
aesthetic touches to the fireplace, as their exposure to flames will cause an unsafe 
rise in the CO level; and 
The key to mold control is moisture control. 
If mold is a problem in your home, you should clean up the mold promptly and fix the source of 
the water problem. 
It is important to dry waterdamaged 
areas and items within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold 
Why is mold growing in my home? 
Molds are an important part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds break down dead 
organic matter, such as fallen leaves and dead trees, providing nutrients for the soil and growing 
vegetation. But indoors, mold growth should be prvented. Molds reproduce by means of tiny 
spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold 
may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many 
types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture. 
Can mold cause health problems? 
Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and 
begin growing. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. They produce allergens 
(substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and, in some cases, potentially toxic 
substances called mycotoxins. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic 
reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fevertype 
symptoms, such as 
sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes, and skin rashes (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mold are 
common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people 
with asthma who are also allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, 
nose, throat and lungs of both moldallergic 
and nonallergic 
people. Symptoms other than the 
allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Research on 
mold and its negative health effects is ongoing. There are many more potential health effects 
related to mold exposure. For more detailed information, consult a healthcare professional. You 
may also wish to consult your state or local health department. 
How do I get rid of mold? 
It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors. Some mold spores can be found 
floating through the air and in household dust. Mold spores will not grow if moisture is not 
present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture 
indoors. If there is mold growing in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the source of 
the water problem. If you clean up the mold but don't fix the water problem, then, most likely, the 
mold problem will recur. 
Who should do the cleanup? 
This depends on a number of factors. One consideration is the size of the mold problem. If the 
moldy area is less than about 10 square feet (less than roughly a 3x3foot 
patch), in most 
cases, you can handle the job yourself, following the guidelines below. 
If there has been a lot of water damage, and/or mold growth covers more than 10 square feet, 
consult with a Certified Master Inspector®. 
If you choose to hire a contractor or other professional service provider to do the cleanup, make 
sure the contractor has experience cleaning up mold. Check their references and ask the 
contractor to follow the recommendations of the EPA, the guidelines of the American 
Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other guidelines from 
professional organizations or governmental agencies. 
Do not run the HVAC system if you know or suspect that it is contaminated with mold. This 
could spread mold throughout the house. 
If you have health concerns, consult a healthcare professional before starting the cleanup. 
Tips and Techniques 
The tips and techniques presented here will help guide you in cleaning up your mold problem. 
Professional cleaners or remediators may use methods not covered here. Please note that mold 
may cause staining and cosmetic damage. It may not be possible to clean an item such that its 
original appearance is restored. 
If you are unsure about how to clean an item, or if the item is expensive or of sentimental value, 
you may wish to consult a specialist. Specialists in furniture repair and restoration, painting and 
art restoration and conservation, carpet and rug cleaning, water damage, and fire or water 
restoration are commonly listed in the directory. Be sure to ask for and check references. Look 
for specialists who are affiliated with professional organizations. 
What to Wear When Cleaning Moldy Areas: 
If the water and/or mold damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, then call 
in a professional who has experience cleaning and fixing homes damaged by contaminated 
Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely. 
Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. 
Porous and absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if 
they become moldy. Mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of porous 
materials, so the mold may be difficult or impossible to remove completely. 
Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold. 
Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces. Mold can continue to grow beneath these applications. 
Clean up the mold and dry the surfaces before painting. Paint applied over moldy surfaces is 
likely to peel. 
Avoid breathing in mold or mold spores. In order to limit your exposure to airborne mold, you 
may want to wear an N95 
respirator, available at many hardware stores and from companies 
that advertise on the Internet. Some N95 
respirators resemble a paper dust mask with a nozzle 
on the front, and others are made primarily of plastic or rubber and have removable filter 
cartridges that trap and prevent most of the mold spores from entering. In order to be effective, 
the respirator or mask must fit properly, so carefully follow the instructions supplied with the 
Wear gloves. Long gloves that extend to the middle of the forearm are recommended. When 
working with water and a mild detergent, ordinary household rubber gloves may be used. If you 
are using a disinfectant, a biocide such as chlorine bleach, or a strong cleaning solution, you 
should select gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane or PVC. Avoid 
touching mold or moldy items with your bare hands. 
Wear goggles. Goggles that do not have ventilation holes are recommended. Avoid getting mold 
or mold spores in your eyes. 
How do I know when the remediation or cleanup is finished? 
You must have completely fixed the water or moisture problem before the cleanup or 
remediation can be considered finished, based on the following guidelines: 
Ultimately, this is a judgment call; there is no easy answer. If you have concerns or questions, 
be sure to ask your Certified Master Inspector® during your next scheduled inspection. 
Moisture Control and Mold Prevention Tips 
If you see condensation or moisture collecting on windows, walls or pipes, act quickly to dry the 
wet surfaces and reduce the moisture/water source. Condensation can be a sign of high indoor 
Actions That Will Help to Reduce Indoor Humidity: 
Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering. Use exhaust fans or open windows 
whenever cooking, running the dishwasher or washing dishes, etc. 
Actions That Will Help Prevent Condensation: 
You should have completed the mold removal. Visible mold and moldy odors should not be 
present. Please note that mold may cause permanent staining and cosmetic damage. 
You should have revisited the site of mold growth shortly after cleanup, and it should show no 
signs of water damage or mold regrowth. 
Family members should have been able to occupy or reoccupy 
the area without health 
complaints or physical symptoms. 
Moisture control is the key to mold control, so when water leaks or spills occur indoors, act 
quickly. If wet or damp materials or areas are dried within 24 to 48 hours after a leak or spill 
happens, in most cases, mold will not grow. 
Clean and repair roof gutters regularly. 
Make sure that the ground around the home slopes away from the foundation so that water 
does not enter or collect around it. 
Keep airconditioning 
drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly. 
Keep indoor humidity low. If possible, keep it below 60% relative humidity (ideally, between 30% 
and 50%). Relative humidity can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter, which is a 
small, inexpensive instrument that is available at many hardware stores. 
Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers, stoves, and kerosene heaters, 
to the outdoors, where possible. Combustion appliances, such as stoves and kerosene heaters, 
produce water vapor and will increase the humidity unless vented to the outside. 
Use air conditioners and/or dehumidifiers 
when needed. 
Reduce the humidity (see methods above). 
Increase ventilation and air movement by opening doors and/or windows, when practical. Use 
fans as needed. 
Increase the indoor air temperature. 
Testing or Sampling for Mold 
Is sampling for mold needed? In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is 
unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, 
sampling cannot be used to check a building's compliance with federal mold standards. Surface 
sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated. 
Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in 
designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results. Sample 
analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene 
Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), 
or other professional organizations. 
Suspicion of Hidden Mold 
You may suspect hidden mold if an area of your home smells moldy but you cannot see the 
source, or if you know there has been water damage and family members are reporting health 
problems. Mold may be hidden in places such as the backside of drywall, wallpaper or paneling, 
the topside 
of ceiling tiles, or the underside of carpets and pads, etc. Other possible locations 
of hidden mold include areas inside walls around pipes (especially if the pipes are leaking or 
have condensation on them), the surface of walls behind furniture (where condensation can 
form), inside ductwork, and in roof materials above ceiling tiles (due to roof leaks or insufficient 
Investigating Hidden Mold Problems 
Investigating hidden mold problems may be difficult and will require caution when the 
investigation involves disturbing potential sites of mold growth. For example, removing 
wallpaper can lead to a massive release of spores if there is mold growing on the underside of 
the paper. If you believe that you may have a hidden mold problem, consider hiring an 
experienced professional. 
Cleanup and Biocides 
Biocides are substances that can destroy living organisms. The use of a chemical or biocide 
that kills organisms such as mold (chlorine bleach, for example) is not recommended as a 
routine practice during mold cleanup. There may be instances, however, when professional 
judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immunecompromised 
individuals are 
present). In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize an area; a background level of 
mold spores will remain, and these spores will not grow if the moisture problem has been 
resolved. If you choose to use disinfectants or biocides, always ventilate the area and exhaust 
the air to the outdoors. Never mix chlorine bleach with other cleaning solutions or detergents 
that contain ammonia because toxic fumes could be produced. 
Note: Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply 
kill the mold; it must also be removed. 
Cover cold surfaces, such as cold water pipes, with insulation. 
Ten Things You Should Know About Mold 
1. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposure include allergic 
asthma, and other respiratory complaints. 
2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the 
way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture. 
3. If mold is a problem in your home, you must clean up the mold and eliminate the sources of 
unwanted moisture. 
4. Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth. 
5. Reduce indoor humidity to 30% to 60% to decrease mold growth by: 
a. venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisturegenerating 
sources to the outside; b. using air 
conditioners and dehumidifiers; 
c. increasing ventilation; and d. using exhaust fans whenever 
cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning. 
6. Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24 to 48 hours to 
prevent mold growth. 
7. Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent 
materials that are moldy (such as carpeting and ceiling tiles) may need to be replaced. 
8. Prevent condensation. Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, 
piping, exterior walls, ceilings and floors) by adding insulation. 
9. In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting. 
10. Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any surface, provided 
moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods. 
Central Humidifiers 
Humidifiers are devices that humidify the indoor air so that family members are comfortable. 
Central humidifiers are hardwired 
into a house’s plumbing and forcedair 
heating systems. 
What is humidity? 
Humidity refers to the amount of moisture in the air. “Relative humidity” signifies the amount of 
moisture in the air relative to the maximum amount of water the air can contain before it 
becomes saturated. This maximum moisture count is related to air temperature in that the hotter 
the air is, the more moisture it can hold. For instance, if indoor air temperature drops, relative 
humidity will increase. 
How do central air humidifiers work? 
Central air humidifiers are integrated into the forcedair 
heating system so that they humidify air 
while it is being heated. The water that is used by the device is pumped automatically into the 
humidifier from the household plumbing, unlike portable humidifiers, which require the user to 
periodically supply water to the device. Humidifiers are available in various designs, each of 
which turns liquid water into water vapor, which is then vented into the house at an adjustable 
Why humidify air? 
Certain airborne pathogens, such as those that cause the flu, circulate more easily in dry air 
than in damp air. Damp air also seems to soothe irritated, inflamed airways. For someone with a 
cold and thick nasal secretions, a humidifier can help thin out the secretions and make 
breathing easier. 
Indoor air that is too dry can also cause the following problems: 
cracks in wooden furniture, floors, cabinets and paint. 
Central Humidifier Dangers 
Humidifiers can cause various diseases. The young, elderly and infirm may be particularly at 
risk to contamination from airborne pollutants, such as bacteria and fungi. These can grow in 
humidifiers and get into the air by way of the vapor, which can be breathed in. 
Some of the more common diseases and pathogens transmitted by humidifiers are: 
“humidifier fever,” which is a mysterious and shortlived, 
illness marked by fever, 
headache, chills and malaise, but without prominent pulmonary symptoms. It normally subsides 
within 24 hours without residual effects. 
Other problems associated with humidifiers include: 
damage to musical instruments, such as pianos, guitars and violins; 
dry skin; 
peeling wallpaper; 
static electricity, which can damage sensitive electrical equipment, cause hair to stick up, and 
be painful or annoying; and 
Legionnaires’ Disease. Health problems caused by this disease range from flulike 
symptoms to 
serious infections. This problem is generally more prevalent with portable humidifiers because 
they draw standing water from a tank in which bacteria and fungi can grow; 
thermophilic actinomycetes. These bacteria thrive at temperatures of 113° to 140° F and can 
cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which is an inflammation of the lungs; and 
accumulation of white dust from minerals in the water. These minerals may be released in the 
mist from the humidifier and settle as fine white dust that may be small enough to enter the 
lungs. The health effects of this dust depend on the types and amounts of dissolved minerals. It 
is unclear whether these minerals cause any serious health problems; 
mold growth. This organic substance grows readily in damp environments, such as on the 
surfaces in a home that are made damp by an overworked humidifier. Mold can damage 
building components, as well as pose health hazards to people with allergies or compromised 
immune systems. 
Designs and Maintenance 
A flowthrough 
or “trickle” humidifier is a higherquality 
though more expensive unit than the 
It allows fresh water to trickle into an aluminum panel. Air blows through the panel 
and forces the water to evaporate into the air stream. Excess water exits the panel into a drain 
tube. This design requires little maintenance because the draining water has a selfcleaning 
effect and, unlike the drumtype 
humidifier, there is no stagnant water. 
Other Tips for Homeowners: 
Central humidifiers may have a solid core that should be replaced each year. The 
manufacturer’s instructions should be consulted regarding this replacement. 
In summary, central humidifiers are used to humidify indoor air to make it more comfortable, but 
they can cause health problems and building damage if they are not properly maintained. 
moisture damage due to condensation. Condensed water from overhumidified 
air will appear 
on the interior surfaces of windows and other relatively cool surfaces. Excessive moisture on 
windows can damage windowpanes and walls, but a more serious issue is caused when 
moisture collects on the inner surfaces of exterior walls. Moisture there can ruin insulation and 
rot the wall, and cause peeling, cracking and blistering of the paint; and 
A drumtype 
humidifier has a spongy, rotating surface that absorbs water from a tray. Air from 
the central heating system blows through the sponge, vaporizing the absorbed water. The drum 
type requires care and maintenance because mold and impurities can collect in the water tray. 
According to some manufacturers' instructions, this tray should be rinsed annually, although it 
usually helps to clean it several times per heating season. 
If equipped with a damper, the humidifier should be closed in the summer and opened in the 
winter. The damper may appear as a knob that can be set to its “summer” or “winter” setting, or 
it may be a piece of metal that can be inserted to cover the duct opening. 
The humidifier is controlled by a humidistat, which must be adjusted daily. Some new models do 
this automatically, although most require daily attention from the home’s occupants. The 
humidistat should include a chart that can be used to identify the proper setting based on the 
outdoor temperature. If this adjustment is not performed, condensation will likely collect on the 
home’s cool surfaces and potentially lead to mold growth and wood rot. Many homeowners do 
not know that this calibration is necessary. 
The furnace may need to be checked for rust. Some humidifiers are installed inside the plenum 
of the furnace, which can be damaged by rust if the humidifier leaks. 
Bathroom Ventilation 
Bathroom ventilation systems are designed to exhaust odors and damp air to the home's 
exterior. Typical systems consist of a ceiling fan unit connected to a duct that terminates at the 
Fan Function 
The fan may be controlled in one of several ways: 
A wallmounted 
humidistat can be preset 
to turn the fan on and off based on different levels of 
relative humidity. 
Newer fans may be very quiet but work just fine. Older fans may be very noisy or very quiet. If 
an older fan is quiet, it may not be working well. Homeowners can test for adequate fan air flow 
with a chemical smoke pencil or a powder puff bottle. 
Bathroom ventilation fans should be inspected for dust buildup that can impede air flow. 
Particles of moistureladen 
animal dander and lint are attracted to the fan because of its static 
charge. Homeowners should clean dirty fan covers. 
Ventilation systems should be installed in all bathrooms. This includes bathrooms with windows, 
since windows will not be opened during the winter in cold climates. 
The following conditions indicate insufficient bathroom ventilation: 
high levels of humidity. 
The most common defect related to bathroom ventilation systems is improper termination of the 
duct. The vent must terminate at the home’s exterior. 
Most are controlled by a conventional wall switch. 
A timer switch may be mounted on the wall. 
moisture stains on walls or ceilings; 
corrosion of metal; 
visible mold on walls or ceilings; 
peeling paint or wallpaper; 
frost on windows; and 
The most common improper termination locations are: 
under attic vents. The duct must terminate at the home’s exterior, not just under it. 
Improperly terminated ventilation systems may appear to work fine from inside the bathroom, so 
the homeowner may have to look in the attic or on the roof. Sometimes, poorly installed ducts 
will loosen or become disconnected at joints or connections. 
Ducts that leak or terminate in the attic can cause problems from condensation. Warm, damp air 
will condense on cold attic framing, insulation, and other building materials. This condition has 
the potential to cause health and/or decay problems from mold, or damage to building materials, 
including drywall. Dampness also reduces the effectiveness of thermal insulation. 
Perhaps the most serious consequence of an improper ventilation setup is the potential 
accumulation of mold in the attic or crawlspace. Mold may appear as a fuzzy, threadlike, 
cobwebby fungus, although it can never be identified with certainty without being labtested. 
Health problems caused by mold are related to high concentrations of spores in the indoor air. 
Spores are like microscopic seeds, released by mold fungi when they reproduce. Every home 
has mold. Moisture levels above about 20% in building materials will cause mold colonies to 
grow. Inhaling mold spores can cause health problems in those with asthma or allergies, and 
serious or fatal fungal infections in those with lung disease or compromised immune systems. 
Decay or rot is also caused by fungi. Incipient or early decay cannot be seen. By the time it 
becomes visible, the affected wood of the home’s structure may have lost up to 50% of its 
original strength and integrity. 
In order to grow, mold fungi require the following conditions to be present: 
If insufficient levels of any of these requirements exist, all mold growth will stop and the fungi will 
go dormant. Most fungi are difficult to actually kill. 
Even though mold growth may take place in the attic, mold spores can be sucked into the living 
areas of a residence by low air pressure. Low air pressure is usually created by the expulsion of 
household air from exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchens and heating equipment, and the vent 
from a clothes dryer. 
in the attic. This is easy to spot; 
beneath the insulation. You need to remember to look. The duct may terminate beneath the 
insulation or there may be no duct installed; and 
temperatures between approximately 45° F and 85° F; 
food. This includes a wider variety of materials found in homes; and 
Improper Ventilation 
Ventilation ducts must be made from the appropriate materials and installed properly and 
oriented effectively to ensure that stale air is adequately exhausted. 
Ventilation ducts must: 
be installed according to the manufacturers’ recommendations. 
The following tips are helpful, although not required. Ventilation ducts should: 
have smooth interiors. Ridges will encourage vapor to condense, allowing water to backflow 
into the exhaust fan or leak through joints and onto vulnerable surfaces below. 
Above all else, a bathroom ventilation fan should be connected to a duct capable of venting 
water vapor and odors to the outdoors. Mold growth within the bathroom or attic is a clear 
indication of improper ventilation that must be corrected in order to avoid structural decay and 
respiratory health issues. 
Sewer Gases 
Decomposing waste materials in public and private sewer and septic systems create sewer 
gases. Methane is the greatest single constituent of sewer gas, which includes an assortment of 
toxic and nontoxic 
gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, ammonia, nitrogen oxides, 
and sulfur dioxide. Improperly disposed gasoline and mineral spirits may also contribute to 
sewer gases. 
Sewer gases pose the following risks: 
terminate outdoors. They should never terminate within the building’s envelope; 
include a screen or louvered (angled) slats at its termination to prevent the entry of birds, 
rodents and insects; 
be as short and straight as possible, and avoid turns. Longer ducts allow more time for vapor to 
condense and also force the exhaust fan to work harder; 
be insulated, especially in cold climates. Cold ducts encourage condensation to form; 
protrude at least several inches from the roof; 
be equipped with a roof termination cap that protects the duct from the elements; and 
be made from inflexible metal, PVC, or other rigid material. Unlike dryer exhaust vents, they 
should not droop; and 
hydrogen sulfide poisoning. Hydrogen sulfide is an explosive and extremely toxic gas that can 
impair several different systems in the body at once, most notably the nervous system. So 
potent that it can be smelled at 0.47 parts per billion by half of all adults, the gas will begin to 
cause eye irritation at 10 parts per million (ppm) and eye damage at 50 ppm. Other lowlevel 
symptoms include nervousness, dizziness, nausea, headache and drowsiness. 
odor. Hydrogen sulfide is responsible for sewer gas’s characteristic rottenegg 
smell, which can 
be overbearing even at extremely low concentrations. The gas’s odor is a safeguard, however, 
because it alerts the home’s occupants to the leak long before they’re in any serious danger. It 
is important to note that at roughly 100 ppm, the olfactory nerve becomes paralyzed, removing 
the victim’s sense of smell and, subsequently, their awareness of the danger. Another "warning 
smell" comes from ammonia, which will sear the nostrils and progressively irritate the mucous 
membranes and respiratory tract. This gas, unlike hydrogen sulfide, is sufficiently irritating that 
the home’s occupants are likely to vacate before its concentration rises to toxic levels. 
If you suspect that any odors might be caused by sewer gases, contact a qualified plumber. 
The design of the plumbing system relies on a connection between household fixtures and the 
sewer system, which is why a great deal of effort is spent to ensure that waste products and 
the gases that result from their decay flow 
in one direction. 
The following failures in the plumbing system may allow sewer gases to flow back into the 
Exposure to higher concentrations can lead to pulmonary edema, and still higher levels (800 to 
1,000 ppm) will cause almost immediate loss of consciousness and death; 
asphyxiation. When sewer gases diffuse into household air, they gradually displace oxygen and 
suffocate the home’s occupants. The effects of oxygen deficiency include headache, nausea, 
dizziness and unconsciousness. At very low oxygen concentrations (less than 12%), 
unconsciousness and death will occur quickly and without warning. Oxygen will be at its lowest 
concentrations in the basement, which is where heavy sewer gases, principally methane, are 
likely to collect; 
fire or explosion. Methane and hydrogen sulfide are explosive components of sewer gas. 
Vapors from improperly disposed fuel can further increase the risk of fire or explosion; and 
piping and plumbing fixtures. In most cases, intruding sewer gases are caused by a 
loss of the water barrier where traps have gone dry. Especially in dry weather, infrequent use of 
a toilet, shower or floor drain can allow for rapid evaporation and entry of sewer gases into the 
living space. Particularly common culprits are floor drains placed in locations where they are 
likely to dry out, such as near water heaters and furnaces, as well as seldomused 
drains, such 
as those in janitor’s closets, workshop areas, and mechanical rooms. Homeowners can maintain 
the water barriers by using the fixtures more often or by pouring water down the drains. 
Automatic draintrap 
primers may also be installed so that a small amount of water is 
periodically delivered; 
cracks in the plumbing drain line or vent pipes. A water leak typically accompanies a crack in 
the drain line, but vent pipe cracks are more difficult to diagnose, and they can vent a large 
quantity of sewer gases into the home. Plumbers can locate these cracks by using a special 
machine that generates artificial smoke and pumps it into the plumbing drain system. The 
smoke pressurizes the system and exits through any cracks and loose fittings; 
diffusion from a leachfield septic system; 
through cracks in a building’s foundation; and 
plumbing vents installed too close to air intakes, or windows in homes equipped with HVAC air 
handlers that admit outside air for ventilation. Wind and air flow around the house can allow for 
sewer gas to enter even where plumbing vents and air intakes are appropriately placed. 
Homeowners can add vent pipe filters or alter the height of the vents to alleviate the problem. 
In summary, the intrusion of sewer gases into the living space should be fixed before occupants 
suffer ill health. 
Pesticides are poisons designed to kill a variety of plants and animals, such as insects 
(insecticides), weeds (herbicides), and mold or fungus (fungicides). They are each composed of 
an inert carrier and a pestspecific 
active ingredient, both of which are toxic to humans and pets. 
Human Exposure 
Pesticides may enter the body in one of the following three ways, which are ordered from least 
to most dangerous: 
inhaled. Powders, and airborne droplets and vapors can be easily inhaled. Lowpressure 
applications present a relatively limited hazard because most of the droplets are too large and 
heavy to remain in the air. Highpressure 
applications, however, are particularly dangerous 
because the droplets are small enough that they can be carried by winds for considerable 
distances. Pesticides with a high inhalation hazard should have a label that instructs the user to 
use a respirator. 
Health Effects and Symptoms of Pesticide Exposure 
The health effects of pesticides are specific to their ingredients. Organophosphates and 
carbamates, for instance, affect the nervous system, while others may irritate the skin and eyes, 
influence the body’s hormone or endocrine system, and even cause cancer. Symptoms of 
pesticide exposure may appear immediately and disappear soon after exposure has ceased, or 
they may take a long time even 
years to 
develop. Specific symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following. 
Acute symptoms include: 
absorbed through the skin. People can get pesticide on their skin because it is likely to splash or 
mist while mixing, loading or applying the chemicals. Skin contact may also occur while touching 
protective clothing, a piece of equipment, or any other surface that was exposed to pesticides; 
swallowed. Numerous reports exist of people accidentally drinking or eating a pesticide that had 
been placed in an unlabeled container, or by children whose access was not adequately childproofed. 
Toxic substances can also be ingested when eating or smoking near those who have 
handled the chemicals; and 
mild poisoning: irritation of the nose, throat, eyes and/or skin, headache, dizziness, loss of 
appetite, thirst, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, weakness or fatigue, restlessness, nervousness, 
changes in mood, and/or insomnia; 
moderate poisoning: vomiting, excessive salivation, coughing, constriction of the throat and 
chest, abdominal cramps, blurred vision, rapid pulse, excessive perspiration, profound 
weakness, trembling, lack of muscular coordination, and/or mental confusion; 
severe poisoning: inability to breathe, small or pinpoint pupils, chemical burns, uncontrollable 
muscular twitching, unconsciousness, and/or death. 
health effects include: 
disturbances to the immune system (including minor ones, such as asthma and allergies). 
Only a small percentage of insecticides and herbicides actually reach their intended 
destinations. The bulk of the chemicals find their way to other places, such as the air, water, 
food sources, and nontargeted 
insect and animal species. People and pets track pesticide 
residue into the house where it may settle on laundry, furniture, toys, and virtually anyplace 
else. Most runs off into water or dissipates in the air, where it may endanger the environment. 
This incidental or unintended travel is known as "drift." 
Fumigant pesticides used outdoors have the potential to travel many miles from their intended 
targets, drifting through the air into schools, homes, parks and playgrounds. Pesticide drift has 
resulted in cases of mass hospitalizations, such as in 2007 when 121 workers in Nevada were 
rushed to the hospital after fumigant pesticide traveled a quartermile 
from its intended target. 
Home gardens usually require significantly less pesticide than largescale 
agriculture, although 
the latter is held to safety standards that home gardeners are likely to ignore. 
Warning Labels on Pesticides 
Manufacturers of pesticides create warning labels for their products by considering how harmful 
the chemical would be through each route of entry into the body. The signal word that applies to 
the most dangerous route of entry is the one that goes on the label. Any one of the following 
signal words should appear on pesticide warning labels: 
DANGER: highly hazardous by at least one route of entry. The word "DANGER" alone means 
that the pesticide’s greatest hazard is that it can severely irritate the skin or eyes, or both. If the 
pesticide has the word "DANGER" plus a skullandcrossbones 
symbol, it means that the 
pesticide is highly toxic through one or more routes of entry. Funginex®, for instance, has the 
signal word "DANGER" on its label because it is a severe eye irritant. If it were highly toxic 
through oral, dermal or inhalation exposure, it would have the word "POISON" and the skullandcrossbones 
Labels should also contain a “hazard to humans” section and a “personal protective equipment” 
section, which instructs users about the kinds of exposures the signal word for that particular 
pesticide refers to. 
cancer (lung, brain, testicular, lymphoma, leukemia); 
spontaneous abortion and stillbirth; 
genetic damage; 
infertility, including lowered sperm count; 
liver and pancreatic damage; 
neuropathy; and 
CAUTION: slightly hazardous by any of the routes of entry. 
WARNING: moderately hazardous by at least one route of entry. 
Safety Tips: 
Address any additional concerns with your Certified Master Inspector® during your next 
scheduled inspection. 
Pet Allergens 
Cats and dogs produce allergens that pose a health threat to certain individuals. 
Modes of Transmission 
Cat dander consists of microscopic pieces of cat skin that have dried, flaked off, and become 
airborne. Shed dander can land on and stick to bedding, curtains, carpeting, and other surfaces, 
including people's skin and clothing. It contains Fel D1, a glycoprotein found in the cat's 
sebaceous glands located under their skin, and, to a lesser extent, it is found in cats' saliva and 
urine. Fel D1 can cause rapid allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Unlike cats, the dogs’ 
allergen, Can F1, is found in higher concentrations in their saliva than in their sebaceous 
Facts and Figures 
Limit termite infestation and 
the necessity for pesticide use by 
building with steel, concrete 
or brick. Boratetreated 
lumber will repel carpenter ants and termites. 
Plant diseaseresistant 
plants around the home. 
Always keep chemicals out of reach of children. 
If you must handle pesticides, wear gloves and long sleeves, and avoid breathing the vapors. 
Carefully follow directions with regard to concentration, protective gear, and restricting access to 
areas that have been treated. 
Always ventilate the area well after use. 
Mix or dilute chemicals outdoors, if possible. 
Dispose of unwanted pesticides safely, and store partiallyused 
containers outside the living 
Leather items contaminated with pesticides should be discarded. According to Montana State 
University, when leather watch bands, boots and gloves are worn and become damp, the 
wearer will again be exposed to the pesticide. 
More people are allergic to cats than they are to dogs. This may be due to the severity of the 
allergen Fel D1, or because dogs are generally bathed regularly, whereas cats are not. 
Between 6 and 10 million Americans are allergic to cats, and approximately onethird 
of them 
have cats in their homes. 
Animal dander, hair, and other organic debris in homes can also result in a significant increase 
in the level of dust mites, mite feces, and other allergenic insect parts. 
Allergens may be found months or years after a pet has been removed from a house. 
allergens commonly infiltrate places where pets have never been present, such as 
schools, workplaces, and other public spaces. Since dander allergens are sticky, they can be 
transported to these places on the clothing of pet owners. 
Animal hair, despite popular belief, is not considered to be a significant allergen. However, hair 
can collect pollen, dust, mold, and other allergens. 
There are no "nonallergenic" 
breeds of dogs or cats. Some breeds of both species, however, 
are believed to be hypoallergenic. Anecdotal reports claim that the Siberian, Cornish Rex, and 
hairless Canadian Sphynx cat breeds are less likely to provoke an allergic attack than most 
other cats. Similarly, poodles and schnauzers have been reported to be less allergenic. None of 
these claims has been validated scientifically. 
Cat and Dog Allergy Symptoms 
These include: 
coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, frequent bronchitis, and shortness of breath. 
How to Test Whether a Cat or Dog Has Been in a Home 
Pets are forbidden by many rental lease agreements, which may then be violated by tenants 
who secretly house cats or dogs. Also, cats may visit a residence at night to forage for food or 
find shelter. The following detection methods may be used: 
Use a blacklight to check for pet urine. 
Cleaning Tips: 
Wash and use a HEPAfilter 
vacuum for interior surfaces. Note that ordinary vacuum cleaners, 
which cause allergenic particles to become airborne, are ineffective and may even worsen the 
problem for sensitive occupants. 
Advice for People with Pets 
A combination of approaches—medical control of symptoms, good housecleaning, and 
planning—is most likely to succeed in allowing an allergic person to live with pets. Tips for 
itching, rashes and hives; 
sneezing and congestion; 
redness, itching, swelling and watering of the eyes; 
drip, itching or hoarseness of the throat, and the need to clear the throat often; 
itching, plugging or popping in the ears; and 
Smell for the animal. If the cat is an indoor cat, a litter box must have been used somewhere in 
the building, and they almost always produce an odor. Even after they are removed, the smell 
from a litter box may linger for quite some time. If a male cat was present in the house and he 
has urinated on or "marked" any areas, the odor will be very strong. 
Look for hair. Somewhere in the home, especially where the cat likes to sleep or rest, there will 
be large amounts of hair. 
Obtain a thorough, professional duct cleaning. 
Commercially steamclean, 
professionally dryclean, 
or use very hot water to launder clothing. 
Take allergy medication. Most fall under one of the following three categories: 
o antihistamines, such as overthecounter 
Claritin® and Benadryl®, and the prescription 
drugs Allegra® and Zyrtec®; 
Keep pets off furniture, especially upholstered furniture where dander can be easily transferred. 
In summary, irritation and contamination caused by pet allergens can be limited by proper care 
of their hygiene, homes and owners. 
Greywater (also spelled graywater) is wastewater collected from household showers, sinks, 
tubs, and washing machines that would otherwise be sent down the drain and into the sewage 
system. Greywater is not potable water, but it can be used for some household activities, such 
as flushing toilets and, more commonly, for irrigation. Greywater differs from blackwater, which 
is water that has come into contact with fecal matter and people who carry infectious diseases. 
There are two main classifications of greywater: 
Get allergy shots. These are not always effective, however, and completing treatment can take 
Bathe your pet on a weekly basis. Cats can get used to being bathed, but it’s critical to use only 
products labeled for them. 
Keep the pet outdoors as much as possible. 
Allergic individuals should not hug, pet or kiss their pets. 
Have your pet spayed or neutered. The allergen produced by a cat is highest in unaltered males 
and lowest in altered males. 
Remove clothing worn after grooming or playing with pets. 
Litter boxes should be placed in an area far away from the air supply to the rest of the home, 
and should be avoided by allergic individuals. 
Design a cleaning regimen that can substantially reduce those levels, ranging from discarding 
materials to HEPAvacuuming 
and washing certain surfaces. 
Maintain adequate ventilation. 
Remove as much carpet from the home as is feasible. The less dandercatching 
such as carpeting and cloth curtains, the better. 
Clean frequently and thoroughly to remove dust and dander, and wash articles such as couch 
covers, throw pillows, curtains, and pet beds. 
Create an "allergyfree" 
zone in your home—preferably, the allergic person's bedroom—and 
strictly prohibit the pet's access to it. Consider using impermeable covers for the mattress and 
Untreated greywater is collected relatively cheaply and is always used immediately. It may be 
utilized for flushing toilets and for outdoor irrigation, where it is then purified by plant roots and 
soil life. 
Treated greywater is collected using automated diversion, purification and irrigation systems, 
which render greywater suitable for storage and for additional uses, such as for washing and 
o decongestants, such as OTC Sudafed® and prescription AllegraD
®; and o prescription 
steroids, such as Flonase® and Nasonex® sprays. 
Opponents of greywater usage cite concerns that greywater systems could harbor and spread 
disease. Proponents of greywater systems acknowledge that much household water usage 
does not actually require potable water, and that greywater systems, when implemented 
properly, provide an important secondary source of household water. 
Facts and Figures 
Greywater usage is common and often not regulated in many ThirdWorld 
Potential Hazards 
Emptying untreated greywater into a toilet's tank may cause a foul odor; when flushing with 
greywater, pour it directly into the toilet bowl. 
Adavantages of Greywater 
According to Oasis Design, “The total number of households utilizing greywater is estimated to 
range from 660,000 to 1.77 million in California, and 8 million in the United States." In 2009, 
Oregon passed a law that encourages the use of greywater. 
Although there is no comprehensive study on the public health risks of greywater, there have 
been no reported cases of illness from contact with greywater in the United States. 
All greywater has the potential to harbor dangerous bacteria and viruses. 
It is not potable. 
present in untreated greywater can damage foliage. 
Untreated greywater should not be used for lawn sprinklers, as this could spread dangerous, 
airborne bacteria. 
Greywater that is not able to permeate down into the soil can create pools that may leach out 
and contaminate neighboring surface waters. 
Harsh detergents from laundry and washing water, such as dyes, bleaches and bath salts, may 
have a negative impact on vegetation. 
High levels of fats and food residue from kitchen waste may block plumbing. 
Accidental crosscontamination 
of pipes can lead to contamination of drinking water. Only a 
licensed plumber should implement changes to existing plumbing structures. 
Irrigating too closely to a private well could lead to contamination of the drinking water supply. 
Implementing greywater systems may result in a substantial cost savings, both in fresh water 
and sewage costs. 
Using greywater lessens stress on municipal sewage systems and water supplies, which is 
especially important in times of drought and water rationing. 
Implementing greywater systems allows for abundant landscapes in locales where adequate 
water for irrigation is not readily available. 
Nutrients from kitchen wastewater, which would otherwise be wasted, are able to help replenish 
the fertility of soils. 
Greywater is easier to reclaim and treat than blackwater, and breaks down more quickly in the 
Greywater systems can be implemented in new homes and also retrofitted into older homes. 
Devices may be added to systems to capture and utilize heat from greywater, such as the hot 
water from showers. 
Some municipalities offer tax incentives for implementing greywater systems. 
Many municipal golf courses and public parks use treated greywater in their watering systems, 
which saves money for the community. 
Disadvantages of Greywater 
Greywater systems require regular maintenance and may require replacement of expensive 
Here are some tips: 
Consult with local authorities to determine guidelines for greywater usage and necessary permit 
In summary, greywater systems demand serious caution and proper handling to implement 
safely. But as water conservation becomes more important, especially in areas where resources 
are scarce, greywater systems are becoming an increasingly important option to augment 
traditional water supply systems. 
Improper handling could impose serious health hazards. 
Some municipalities require expensive and complex permits and inspections to legally operate a 
greywater system. 
In some jurisdictions, the use of greywater indoors may be prohibited. 
Implementing intricate filtration and treatment systems can be prohibitively expensive. 
Claims made by retailers of expensive greywater filtration systems may be inflated or incorrect. 
Greywater systems are poorly understood by many professionals compared to standard 
plumbing practices. 
Appropriate protective attire, such as gloves, should always be worn when handling greywater. 
Untreated greywater should not be stored longer than 24 hours. 
Irrigation should be implemented with drip hoses at the root level or with subsurface 
techniques. Greywater should not be applied to the surface of edible vegetable gardens. 
Greywater should be applied intermittently in order to allow it to be properly absorbed by the 
Greywater should not be used on exterior surfaces, such as patios or driveways. 
Only biodegradable detergents should be used for laundry. 
Pipes carrying greywater should be clearly labeled and kept separate from freshwater 
blackwater pipes. 
County guidelines should be followed when irrigating close to a private well. 
Systems should be set up such that excess greywater flows into the sewer system, and that 
sewage backup never causes greywater contamination. 
Only pipes with a diameter of 11/2 to 2 inches should be used for greywater lines. 
In systems utilizing valves, only electric sewage valves should be used, as greywater may 
eventually corrode less expensive valves. 
pipes should not be used for greywater, as particles may clog them. 
In order to determine the proper irrigation area, a percolation test can determine the rate at 
which the soil will drain. 
Backflow Prevention 
Backflow is the reversal of the normal and intended direction of water flow in a water system. 
Devices and assemblies known as backflow preventers are installed to prevent backflow, which 
can contaminate potable water supplies. 
Why is backflow a problem? 
Backflow is a potential problem in a water system because it can spread contaminated water 
back through a distribution system. For example, backflow at uncontrolled crossconnections 
are any actual or potential connections between the public water supply and 
a source of contamination or pollution) can allow pollutants or contaminants to enter the potable 
water system. Sickness can result from ingesting water that has been contaminated due to 
Backflow may occur under the following two conditions: 
1. Backpressure, 
which is the reverse from the normal direction of flow within a piping system 
as the result of the downstream pressure being higher than the supply pressure. This reduction 
in supply pressure occurs whenever the amount of water being used exceeds the amount of 
water being supplied, such as during waterline 
flushing, firefighting, 
and breaks in water 
2. Backsiphonage, 
which is the reverse from normal directional flow within a piping system that 
is caused by negative pressure in the supply piping (i.e., the reversal of normal flow in a system 
caused by a vacuum or partial vacuum within the water supply piping). Backsiphonage 
occur when there is a high velocity in a pipe line, when there is a line repair or break that is 
lower than a service point, or when there is lowered main pressure due to highwater 
rate, such as during firefighting 
and watermain 
Atmospheric Vacuum Breakers 
Backflow prevention for residences is most commonly accomplished through the use of 
atmospheric vacuum breakers or AVBs. AVBs operate by allowing the entry of air into a pipe so 
that a siphon cannot form. AVBs are bent at 90 degrees and are usually composed of brass. 
Compared with backflowpreventer 
assemblies, AVBs are small, simple and inexpensive 
devices that require little maintenance or testing. They have long lifespans and are suitable for 
residential purposes, such as sprinkler systems. Homeowners can check for the following: 
The AVB must be at least 6 inches above any higher point downstream of the device. For this 
reason, they can never be installed below grade. Even if they are installed 6 inches above 
grade, homeowners should make sure that they are not installed less than 6 inches above some 
other point in the system downstream of the device. 
The AVB cannot be installed in an enclosure containing air contaminants. If contaminated air 
enters the water piping, it can poison the potable water supply. 
Spillage of water from the top of the AVB is an indication that the device has failed and needs to 
be replaced. 
Types of BackflowPreventer 
Some types of assemblies are common in commercial and agricultural applications but are rare 
for residential uses. The appropriate type of backflow preventer for any given application will 
depend on the degree of potential hazard. The primary types of backflow preventers appropriate 
for use at municipalities and utilities are: 
pressure vacuum breakers: These are commonly used in industrial plants, cooling towers, 
laboratories, laundries, swimming pools, lawn sprinkler systems, and fire sprinkler systems. 
Pressure vacuum breakers use a check valve designed to close with the aid of a spring when 
water flow stops. Its airinlet 
valve opens when the internal pressure is 1 psi above atmospheric 
pressure, preventing nonpotable 
water from being siphoned back into the potable system. The 
assembly includes resilient, seated shutoff 
valves and testcocks. 
Requirements for Testers and Inspectors 
A number of organizations, such as the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the 
American Backflow Prevention Association (ABPA) offer certification courses designed to train 
professionals to test backflow preventers. Requirements for training vary by jurisdiction. 
Inspection of backflow preventers requires knowledge of installation requirements. 
A shutoff 
valve should never be placed downstream of any AVB, as this would result in 
continuous pressure on the AVB. 
AVBs cannot be subject to continuous pressure for 12 hours in any 24hour 
period or they may 
double check valves: These are commonly used in elevated tanks and nontoxic 
boilers. Double 
assemblies are effective against backflow caused by backpressure 
and backsiphonage 
and are used to protect the potable water system from lowhazard 
consist of two positiveseating 
check valves installed as a unit between two 
tightly closing shutoff 
valves, and are fitted with testcocks. 
reduced pressureprinciple 
assemblies: These are commonly used in industrial plants, hospitals, 
morgues, chemical plants, irrigation systems, boilers, and fire sprinkler systems. Reduced 
assemblies (RPs) protect against backpressure 
and backsiphonage 
pollutants and contaminants. The assembly is comprised of two internally loaded, independently 
operating check valves with a mechanically independent, hydraulically dependent relief valve 
between them. 
In summary, backflow preventers are designed to prevent the reverse flow of water in a potable 
water system. They come in a number of different types, each of which is suited for different 
Carpeted Bathrooms 
Carpeted bathrooms have carpeting on their floors instead of traditional flooring, such as tile or 
vinyl. Despite their tendency to foster mold and bacteria, carpets are sometimes installed in 
residential bathrooms for aesthetic purposes. Carpets should never be installed in bathrooms in 
commercial buildings. 
Advantages of Carpets in Bathrooms 
Installation is generally quick and inexpensive. 
Disadvantages of Carpets in Bathrooms 
The pad beneath the carpet may soak up large amounts of moisture. Some of the common 
ways that carpets may come into contact with moisture in bathrooms include: 
water leaking from the toilet. 
The presence of moisture in the pad will lead to the growth of decay fungi on the wood or 
oriented strand board (OSB) subfloor. 
The subfloor 
will become decayed and weakened by 
mold. Mold also releases spores that can cause respiratory ailments, especially for those with 
certain health problems. Moisture meters can be used to determine if there is excess moisture in 
the flooring beneath a carpet. 
In addition to potential mold growth beneath the carpet, bacteria can accumulate in carpeting 
that surrounds the toilet. Bacteria are contained in urine, which can be accidentally deflected 
onto the carpet. 
Carpeted Bathrooms in Commercial Buildings 
It is against code to install carpet in commercial bathrooms. The 2007 edition of the International 
Building Code (IBC) states the following concerning carpeted bathrooms in commercial 
In other than dwelling units, toilet, bathing and shower room floor finish materials shall have a 
smooth, hard, nonabsorbent 
surface. The intersections of such floors with walls shall have a 
smooth, hard, nonabsorbent 
vertical base that extends upward onto the walls at least 4 inches. 
They make bathrooms appear more warm and inviting. 
They are softer than tile and many people find them comfortable on bare feet. 
Slip hazards are reduced. It’s easier to slip on tile than on carpeting. 
steam from the shower condenses on the carpet; 
water splashing from the tub or shower; 
water shed from shower/tub users as they step onto the carpet; 
water splashing out of the sink; 
water dripping from the vanity; and 
Install a bathroom vent fan, if one is not installed already. If a fan is installed, operate it more 
In summary, carpets installed in bathrooms can trap moisture and urine, substances that can 
cause structural damage and health problems. 
Chinese Drywall 
Amidst a wave of Chinese import scares, ranging from toxic toys to tainted pet food, reports of 
contaminated drywall from that country have been popping up across the American Southeast. 
Chinese companies use unrefined fly ash, a coal residue found in smokestacks in coalfired 
power plants in their manufacturing process. Fly ash contains strontium sulfide, a toxic 
substance commonly found in fireworks. In hot and wet environments, this substance can offgas 
into hydrogen sulfide, carbon disulfide, and carbonyl sulfide and contaminate a home’s air 
The bulk of these incidents have been reported in Florida and other southern states, likely due 
to the high levels of heat and humidity in that region. Most of the affected homes were built 
during the housing boom between 2004 and 2007, especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina 
when domestic building materials were in short supply. An estimated 250,000 tons of drywall 
were imported from China during that time period because it was cheap and plentiful. This 
material was used in the construction of approximately 100,000 homes in the United States, and 
many believe this has led to serious health problems and property damage. 
Although not believed to be lifethreatening, 
exposure to high levels of airborne hydrogen 
sulfide and other sulfur compounds from contaminated drywall can result in the following 
physical ailments: 
respiratory infections. 
Due to this problem’s recent nature, there are currently no government or industry standards for 
inspecting contaminated drywall in homes. Certified Master Inspectors® who have dealt with 
contaminated drywall in the past may know how to inspect for sulfur compounds, but there are 
no agencies that offer certification in this form of inspection. Homeowners should beware of con 
artists attempting to make quick money off of this widespread scare by claiming to be licensed 
or certified 
Clean the carpet regularly to remove any mold and urine that may be present. 
Keep the carpet as dry as possible. Various devices exist that prevent water from bypassing the 
shower curtain. 
sore throat; 
sinus irritation; 
dry or burning eyes; and/or 
drywall inspectors. The Master Inspector Certification Board has assembled the following tips 
that inspectors can use to determine whether a home’s drywall is contaminated: 
Drywall samples can be sent to a lab to be tested for dangerous levels of sulfur. This is the best 
testing method but also the most expensive. 
Contaminated Chinese drywall cannot be repaired. Affected homeowners are being forced to 
either suffer bad health and failing appliances due to wire corrosion or replace the drywall 
entirely, a procedure that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This contamination further 
reduces home values in a real estate environment already plagued by crisis. Some insurance 
companies are refusing to pay for drywall replacement, and many of their clients are facing 
financial ruin. Classaction 
lawsuits have been filed against home builders, suppliers, and 
importers of contaminated Chinese drywall. Some large manufacturers named in these lawsuits 
are Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, Knauf Gips, and Taishan Gypsum. 
The Florida Department of Health recently tested drywall from three Chinese manufacturers 
along with a domestic sample and published their findings. They found “a distinct difference in 
drywall that was manufactured in the United States and those that were manufactured in China.” 
The Chinese samples contained traces of strontium sulfide and emitted a sulfur odor when 
exposed to moisture and intense heat, while the American sample did not. The U.S. Consumer 
Product Safety Commission is currently performing similar tests. Other tests performed by 
Lennar, a builder that used Chinese drywall in 80 Florida homes, and Knauf Plasterboard, a 
manufacturer of the drywall, came to different conclusions than the Florida Department of 
Health. Both found safe levels of sulfur compounds in the samples they tested. There is 
currently no scientific proof that Chinese drywall is responsible for the allegations against it. 
Regardless of its source, contamination of some sort is damaging the property and health of 
homeowners in the southern U.S. The media almost unanimously report that the blame lies with 
imported Chinese drywall that contains corrosive sulfur compounds originating from ash 
produced by Chinese coalfired 
power plants. Homes affected by this contamination can suffer 
serious damage to the metal parts of appliances and piping, which can potentially lead to health 
issues for the homes’ families. 
Home Heating Oil Tanks 
Heating oil, which is more commonly known as Fuel Oil No. 2, is used to heat 7.7 million 
American homes each year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Heating oil is in a 
category of fuel oil that also includes Fuel Oil No. 1 (kerosene), range oil, and jet fuel. It is 
essentially the same as diesel fuel except without dye (and the state taxes). For home heating 
use, oil is usually stored in tanks that are underground, in basements, or above ground outside 
of the house. Heating oil is safe when stored and used appropriately, but accidental spills and 
undetected leaks can endanger health, property, and the environment. Homeowners should be 
aware of some of the hazards of a leaking or damaged aboveground 
oil tank. 
The house has a strong sulfur smell reminiscent of rotten eggs. 
Exposed copper wiring appears dark and corroded. Silver jewelry and silverware can become 
similarly corroded and discolored after several months of exposure. 
A manufacturer’s label on the back of the drywall can be used to link it with manufacturers that 
are known to have used contaminated materials. One way to look for this is to enter the attic 
and remove some of the insulation. 
How common are leaks? 
Oil leaks and spills can happen at a residential property for a number of reasons, such as when 
a storage tank develops a leak, is damaged, is overfilled, or if a septic tank whose fuel lines are 
no longer attached to the tank is filled with oil. A spill might even happen on a nearby property 
and the oil may flow into neighboring yards. Regardless of its cause, cleaning up an oil spill is 
extremely expensive, often costing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, putting 
homeowners in danger of bankruptcy. 
How toxic is home heating oil? 
Heating oil is also an environmental pollutant that can poison soil, groundwater, and wildlife and 
their habitats. It has a relatively low toxicity to humans –less 
than that of gasoline – although it 
can harm people through the following methods of exposure: 
ingestion, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and breathing difficulties. In large 
enough quantities, ingestion can lead to coma or death. 
Signs of a Possible Leak 
The following conditions can aid homeowners in identifying leaks or conditions that may lead to 
leaks in aboveground 
heating oil tanks: 
inhalation of vapors: 
o Shortterm 
exposure to heating oil vapors can cause headaches, nausea, increased 
blood pressure, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, and irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. o 
exposure to heating oil vapors, often due to undetected leaks, can cause liver 
and kidney damage, diminished ability to smell and taste, and other serious health problems. 
Heating oil is not currently known to cause cancer, although one of its constituents – benzene – 
is carcinogenic. 
skin contact, which can lead to itchiness, redness, pain, blisters and peeling; and 
drips or any signs of leaks around the tank, filter, fueldelivery 
line, valves, piping or fittings; 
signs that the tank has been patched to temporarily conceal a leak; 
rusty, loose, wobbly or bent tank legs, or a cracked foundation, which can indicate poor tank 
stability. A full 275gallon 
heating oil tank weighs more than 2,000 pounds, so it needs strong 
legs and a sturdy foundation; 
poor condition of oil tank lines. Check these periodically and contact the oil supplier if they look 
questionable. Keep the vent line clear of any snow, ice and insect nests; 
dying vegetation surrounding an outdoor tank. An oil leak may be the cause of damaged or 
dying plants or grass nearby; 
wet spots or rust on the tank’s outer surface; 
old fuelfill 
lines are no longer connected to the tank in use. If these lines are inadvertently filled, 
a massive oil leak will result. Unused/unconnected fuel lines from replaced oil tanks should be 
signs of an oil spill around the fill pipe or vent pipe. 
What should you do in case of an oil spill? 
Homeowners should take the following steps in the event of a residential oil spill or leak. 
Clean up small spills by donning rubber gloves and old shoes and clothing that can be thrown 
away afterward. Avoid skin contact and inhalation of vapors. Larger spills will require 
professional cleanup. 
In summary, home heating oil is a moderately toxic substance that can do serious damage to 
buildings and the environment. Homeowners should keep an eye out for any signs of an 
undetected leak or an accidental spill. If a leak or spill is discovered, take immediate safety 
measures, including contacting the fuel supplier. 
overhanging eaves that may allow ice and snow to fall onto the tank and melt, potentially 
corroding the tank; 
fuel lines that are not covered by protective casing, even if the tank is underground; 
a strong odor of oil around the tank; 
a cracked, stuck or frozen fuellevel 
gauge, or signs of fuel around the gauge; 
a clogged or restricted tank vent blocked by snow, ice or insect nests; or 
Act immediately. Even after the source of the leak is stopped, the leaked oil will saturate 
surrounding soil, flow into cracks and drains, and get beneath floors and walls and remain there 
until it is cleaned up. 
Turn off all sources of flames or sparks in the area, such as pilot lights in water heaters and 
furnaces. Unplug any sparking mechanisms. Do not smoke or light matches in the area. While 
heating oil is less flammable than gasoline, it is still possible for it to ignite. 
Ventilate the area. Clothes and furniture will absorb the oil smell and may need to be discarded. 
Open windows and close coldair 
returns, heat registers, and other openings that may allow 
odors to enter other areas of the home. Make every effort to seal off any air flow between the 
spill and the inhabited areas of the home. 
Be sure to keep pets away from any contaminated area. 
Underground Fuel Storage Tanks 
Buried storage tanks that contain petroleum and other hazardous chemicals may pose a safety 
hazard to those living in homes nearby, as well as significant financial liability to the owner. 
Homeowners who suspect that there’s an underground tank on their property should try to 
confirm its presence and location, and whether it’s in service or inactive, and what it holds. The 
homeowner should have the tank tested for leaks, especially if testing has never been 
performed, if the tank is unused, or if the tank is old. 
According to the Groundwater Protection Council, there are currently more than 640,000 
federally regulated buried tanks that store fuels and other hazardous substances. Of these, 
about 465,000 have leaked, and most have required cleanup, although tens of thousands were 
never repaired because a responsible party could not be identified. Actual figures are likely far 
greater than these totals, which represent only the documented cases. At particular risk are 
households that use groundwater, which comprise a large part of the total U.S. population, and 
99% of families in rural areas. 
Tanks are capable of leaking chemicals for many years, since the corrosion process is typically 
slow. Once free from the tank, petroleum will sink through unsaturated soil and enter the water 
table. There, much of the chemical will vaporize and eventually bubble up through the ground's 
surface. In addition to the risks posed by other petroleum products, leaked gasoline presents 
the risk of fire and explosion, especially if the vapors collect inside buildings. Any 
water that is ingested or used to bathe is potentially deadly. 
Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, collectively known as the BTEX compounds, are 
the most hazardous chemicals found in petroleum. Benzenecontaminated 
water has been 
proven to cause cancer, along with water contaminated by methyl tertiary butyl ether, which is 
added to gasoline to make it burn cleaner. The latter chemical has infiltrated 9,000 community 
water wells in 31 states, although its use in gasoline is being phased out. 
The liability connected with leaking buried tanks can be huge for the property owner. Testing 
typically costs around $500, which is considerably less expensive than the amount of money 
required to clean up a subterranean oil spill and install a new tank. The test should show that 
there is no leakage. If there has been a leak, the situation should be remedied before the 
property is sold. 
Testing requires one or more of the following technical measures: 
Pressure testing: Tanks are pressurized and then monitored for a period of time to observe for 
fluctuations that indicate a leak. 
Soil testing: Soil samples are taken from around the tank and sent to a lab for analysis. If the 
tests show chemicals have leaked, it is advisable for additional samples to be taken so that the 
extent of the contamination can be better understood. 
Water in the tank: If water has entered the tank through a crack, chemicals may leave the tank 
through the same path. If water is pumped through the fuel lines into the burner, it may rust the 
metal parts of the oil filter, which is one way to check for water in the tank. It is possible, 
however, for water to enter an oil tank through faulty oil delivery or via condensation. 
Other methods: Ultrasound and groundpenetrating 
radar can be used to create an image of the 
tank and identify any leaks. 
Tanks that show leakage must be removed from the ground or filled with a chemically inert solid, 
such as sand. Groundwater contaminants must also be removed by pumping air through the 
water, which causes volatile petroleum compounds to vaporize and biodegrade naturally. The 
process of treating or removing the tank, water and soil, known as remediation, costs thousands 
of dollars and is not guaranteed to succeed. Many communities have been forced to find 
alternative sources of drinking water because of petroleum contamination. To avoid this costly 
and difficult mess, new installations should be buried far from potable water sources and 
properly maintained, once the system is in service. 
Compost Pile Hazards 
Compost is an accumulation of degrading food scraps, plants, and other nutrientrich 
matter. It is an easy and environmentally responsible way to dispose of biodegradable kitchen 
waste, which can then be returned to the soil as fertilizer for vegetable and flower gardens. 
Composting is Good 
Compost is used to improve soil structure and provide nutrients for growing plants. 
So, what's wrong with composting? The benefits of the practice are generally wellknown, 
few people are actually aware of the potential hazards and dangers composting can pose. 
Diseases Contracted from Handling Compost 
Compost can be a breeding ground for dangerous pathogens, some of which have killed or 
seriously harmed unsuspecting gardeners. Listed below are some of the more common physical 
ailments that can result from unprotected contact with compost: 
Composting helps to reduce the volume of material in landfills. 
Aspergillosis is a fungal infection of the lungs that is caused after the inhalation of a fungus 
commonly found in rotting plant matter. While normally not lifethreatening, 
aspergillosis can be 
extremely dangerous if enough spores are inhaled. The disease killed a 47yearold 
British man 
after he was engulfed in clouds of dust from the compost he had intended to use in his garden. 
The symptoms of Farmer's Lung resemble pneumonia, and may result from respiratory 
exposure to certain fungal and bacterial pathogens present in rotting organic materials, such as 
mushrooms, hay and sugar cane. Beware of dusty white patches, as they are a sign that 
dangerous spores are present. Farmer’s Lung can usually be treated with antibiotics. 
Histoplasmosis is caused by fungus that grows in guano and bird droppings. Healthy immune 
systems can usually fight off histoplasmosis, although infections can become serious if large 
amounts of the toxin are inhaled, or if the infected person has a weakened immune system. 
Legionnaire’s Disease is a respiratory infection that's caused by the inhalation of L. 
Paronychia is a local infection that occurs in the tissue around the fingernails and toenails. 
Prolonged moisture and the abrasive effects of soil can create openings in the skin that allow 
the infection to occur, producing pain and throbbing. 
Tetanus is a disease of the central nervous system that's caused by bacteria that is very 
common in soil. While even a minor cut can allow the bacteria to enter the bloodstream, 
immunizations against tetanus are quite common. 
How to Avoid Potential Hazards of Composting 
The following general safety precautions should be followed in order to avoid transmission of 
dangerous fungi, bacteria and other pathogens found in compost: 
If you develop a severe cough or infection of the skin (especially if there is an open sore or 
puncture wound), seek medical attention immediately. You may require antibiotics or a tetanus 
Compost Fires 
Surprisingly, a great deal of heat is created by the microbial activity, which is occasionally 
enough to cause a fire. In August 2009, a compost pile spontaneously combusted at the 
Saginaw Compost Facility in Saginaw, Michigan. However, these fires are extremely rare, as 
they occur only under a limited set of circumstances that would ordinarily be avoided using 
common sense. 
According to the Alberta (Canada) Department of Agriculture, the following key conditions must 
be met in order for a compost pile to light itself on fire: 
the temperature within the pile is unknown, with time for the temperature to increase. 
WARNING: While selfincineration 
of compost is possible, compost piles probably catch fire 
more often from ordinary sources, such as a discarded lit cigarette or due to electrical mishaps. 
Also, gardeners who use ash from incinerated trash or the fireplace sometimes neglect to make 
sure that the ash has cooled sufficiently before adding it to the compost pile. 
Always wear dry, breathable gloves to avoid direct contact with compost, and to protect yourself 
from injury while using gardening tools and implements. 
Wear protective footwear that covers your skin adequately to avoid direct contact with compost. 
Do not wear them anywhere except outdoors. 
When stirring and tilling the compost, which is required on a regular basis in order for it to 
process and break down, always wear a nose and mouth guard or dust mask to avoid inhaling 
the various spores that will become airborne during tilling and turning. 
Avoid tilling on windy days. 
Do not store compost in fully closed or airtight containers. Without any air, compost can actually 
become combustible. 
Wash your hands after dealing with compost. While this suggestion may sound obvious, many 
garden enthusiasts get so absorbed with their activities that they forget the potential dangers 
from poisoning. 
dry materials have gone unattended; 
there is biological activity; 
dry pockets of debris form among a nonuniform 
mix of materials; 
the compost is in large, wellinsulated 
there is limited air flow; 
there is poor moisture distribution due to neglect or oversight in monitoring; and 
Tips to help avoid compost fires: 
Monitor the pile’s temperature, focusing on the hottest spot in the pile. Use a thermometer long 
enough to reach the center of the pile. Do not let the pile get too hot. If the temperature of the 
pile exceeds 160° F, reduce the temperature through the following methods: 
o reduce the size of the pile; o add water to 55% moisture; o mix in coarse, bulky material, such 
as wood chips; and o do not pile compost next to buildings or any flammable structures, as a 
fire can spread 
Worms are often added to compost piles to aid in the breakdown of organic matter. But if the 
compost piles are not constructed and maintained properly, they have the tendency to attract 
unwanted pests. Flies, termites and beetles are attracted to the smell of decay, and they, in 
turn, will attract larger predatory critters to the pile. 
Use the following pestcontrol 
Do not place compost near a building. In addition to the fire concerns, compost placed adjacent 
to buildings can promote infestation. 
NOTE: These practices can also mitigate the foul smells that can plague compost piles. 
In summary, the benefits of compost piles can be quickly eclipsed by health hazards and 
nuisance pests if they are not designed correctly and maintained properly. 
Assure that there’s adequate ventilation in the pile to release heat. Turn the pile or use a 
mechanical aeration system to ensure proper ventilation. Narrow, short piles generally have 
adequate ventilation. 
Do not turn a pile that is smoldering, as the sudden infusion of oxygen can cause the pile to 
erupt into flames. 
Do not let the pile get too dry. The University of Missouri states, “Organic material can ignite 
spontaneously due to biological activity at a moisture content between 26 and 46%, if the 
temperature exceeds 200° F.” 
Do not compost eggs, meat, oils, bones, cheese or fats. Compost piles should be "vegetarian." 
Bury the compost with soil or leaves to contain the smell and to aid with the biodegrading 
If using a portable composter, make sure it has a cover that will discourage the entry of pests 
and animals. 
Beware that enclosed compost piles can overheat and create high levels of dangerous gases, 
such as methane, so be sure to rotate the container or till the pile daily. 
Hantavirus is the name commonly applied to the pathogen that causes the rare yet potentially 
deadly disease known as hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HPS). 
HPS is actually caused by several forms of this virus, which, collectively, account for just a 
fraction of all hantaviruses, most of which are not a threat to humans. 
HPS is transmitted through rodent feces, urine and saliva, and the primary mode of human 
contact with hantavirus is through inhalation. Crawlspaces and vacated houses are areas where 
rodent infestations are likely. 
Symptoms of HPS 
Although researchers are not certain as to how long the virus’ incubation period may last, it is 
generally believed to last up to five weeks. Symptoms of HPS will follow this period. 
Early symptoms of HPS almost always include muscle aches, fever and fatigue. Sufferers may 
also experience nausea, chills, dizziness, diarrhea, abdominal pain and headaches. Four to 10 
days after these symptoms first appear, infected persons will find it hard to breathe as their 
lungs begin to fill with fluid. Coughing and shortness of breath are common respiratory 
symptoms of the later stages of infection. 
There is no known cure, vaccine or treatment that specifically targets HPS. However, if the 
symptoms are recognized early, patients may benefit from oxygen therapy. If the symptoms of 
HPS are recognized late, it is less likely that medical intervention will be helpful. The hantavirus 
kills roughly 30% to 40% of those who become infected. 
Places Where the Hantavirus is Likely to Be Encountered 
The Master Inspector Certification Board believes that crawlspaces are the most likely locations 
that the hantavirus may be encountered. This is partly due to the fact that rodents are attracted 
to areas that are undisturbed by humans. Also, crawlspaces are generally dark places that lack 
ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can rapidly inactivate the hantavirus. The virus will be less likely 
to be dangerous in areas of the house that receive sunlight through windows. Open windows 
will also allow contaminants to vent from the home. 
Homes that have not been occupied for long periods of time are more likely to experience heavy 
rodent infestation and hantavirus contamination, among other viruses and bacteria. 
The hantavirus can be transmitted to humans in the following ways: 
Although extremely rare, the virus can be transmitted through a bite from an infected rodent. 
The hantavirus cannot be transmitted from infected humans to other humans, or to any other 
If a homeowner must enter a rodentinfested 
area of the house, s/he should wear personal 
protective equipment. The primary mode of transmission for hantavirus is through inhalation, so 
a respirator is necessary. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that a halfface 
respirator is adequate, although other sources say that a fullface 
respirator (covering the eyes, 
nose and mouth) is required. To be safe, it is a good idea to wear goggles to prevent 
contaminated dust from coming into contact with the eyes if only a halfface 
respirator is being 
The following are specific instructions from the CDC concerning appropriate respirators for 
hantavirus exposure: 
Wear either a halfface, 
respirator, or a positivepressure, 
respirator (PAPR) equipped with N100 
or P100 
filters (formerly designated as 
particulate air [HEPA] filters). Negativepressure 
respirators are not protective if 
facial hair interferes with the facepiece 
to face seal because a proper fit cannot be assured. 
Rodents That Carry Hantavirus 
Four species of mice and rats have been confirmed as carriers of the hantavirus. The CDC 
offers the following information to identify them: 
1. The deer mouse is a deceptively cute animal, with big eyes and big ears. Its head and body 
normally about 2 to 3 inches long, and the tail adds another 2 to 3 inches in length. You may 
see it in a variety of colors, from gray to reddishbrown, 
depending on its age. The underbelly is 
always white, and the tail has sharply defined white sides. The deer mouse is found almost 
everywhere in North America. Usually, the deer mouse likes woodlands, but it also turns up in 
desert areas. 
2. The cotton rat, found in the southeastern United States (and way down into Central and 
South America), has a bigger body than the deer mouse—the head and body are about 5 to 7 
inches, and another 3 to 4 inches with the tail. The hair is longer and coarser and of a 
color, even grayishblack. 
The cotton rat prefers overgrown areas with shrubs 
and tall grasses. 
When fresh rodent droppings and urine that contains the hantavirus are disturbed, the virus will 
become airborne and can be more easily transmitted to humans. The majority of transmissions 
occur due to inhaled aerosolized droplets that are contaminated with hantavirus. 
Touching the nose or mouth after touching anything contaminated by infected rodents can lead 
to contamination and human infection. 
Eating food contaminated by infected rodents can transmit the virus. 
3. The rice rat is slightly smaller than the cotton rat, having a head and body 5 to 6 inches long, 
plus a very long, 4to 
tail. Rice rats sport short, soft, grayishbrown 
fur on top, and gray 
or tawny underbellies. Their feet are whitish. As you might expect from the name, this rat likes 
marshy areas and is semiaquatic. 
It's found in the southeastern United States and in Central 
4. The whitefooted 
mouse is hard to distinguish from the deer mouse. The head and body 
together are about 4 inches long. Its tail is normally shorter than its body (about 2 to 4 inches 
long). Topside, its fur ranges from pale brown to reddishbrown, 
while its underside and feet are 
white. The whitefooted 
mouse is found throughout southern New England, the MidAtlantic 
southern states, the Midwestern and western states, and Mexico. It prefers wooded and brushy 
areas, although sometimes it will live in more open ground. 
Although the virus can appear anywhere in the United States, it is more prevalent West of the 
Mississippi. Males and Caucasians are also somewhat more likely to contract HPS than females 
and other races, although it is likely that this occurrence is due to factors that are not genderor 
but are probably more attributable to occupational exposure and the greater 
populations of Caucasians in the western United States. 
It is possible that the virus can be carried by other species of rodents that have yet to be 
In summary, hantavirus should be taken seriously by every homeowner because this virus is 
encountered in homes more than in any other location. The disease that it causes, HPS, has no 
cure, and very few people know enough about it to protect themselves from infection. 
Plants and Indoor Air Quality 
Raising plants indoors is a homehealthy 
move because of their ability to clean the air of carbon 
dioxide, but their benefits don't stop there. According to several studies, the average houseplant 
can remove formaldehyde, benzene, and a host of other toxins that plague typical indoor air. 
It may come as a surprise, but indoor air is often much more polluted than the air outdoors. 
from paints, adhesives, and even unsuspected items, such as clothing and tap 
water, infuse the air we breathe with a host of chemicals, many of which are proven 
carcinogens. Newer, tighter homes are especially problematic, since they limit the amount of 
fresh air that can make its way into the interior. Compound this with the average time that 
citizens of developed nations spend indoors – approximately 90% – and the need for 
remediation becomes clear. Answering this need can be as simple as the addition of green, 
leafy plants to the living space. 
Interesting Facts 
Removal of environmental airborne toxins with the aid of plants is called phytoremediation. 
Plants can reduce stress, increase work performance, and reduce symptoms of ill health. 
Study Performed by NASA 
While researching the ability of plants to cleanse air in space stations, NASA made some 
fascinating and important discoveries concerning the role that houseplants play here on Earth. 
They tested the ability of a variety of plants to remove common volatile organic compounds 
(VOCs) from the air. 
The toxins tested include: 
o It’s found in adhesives, disinfectants, rubber, printing ink, lacquers, and leather tanners; o 
Symptoms in low doses include sleepiness, confusion, weakness, memory loss, nausea, loss of 
appetite, and hearing and colorvision 
loss. High levels of toluene may cause lightheadedness, 
unconsciousness, and death. 
In the NASA testing, flowering plants, such as chrysanthemums and gerbera daisies, effectively 
removed benzene from the chamber's atmosphere. Golden pothos, spider plants and 
philodendron were the most effective in removing formaldehyde molecules. Other top 
performers were rededged 
dracaena and the Peace Lily. The rest of the plants tested, with the 
exception of Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum), were effective at removing at least 
one of the chemicals from the air. NASA researchers found that plants absorb airborne 
substances through tiny openings in their leaves, but roots and soil bacteria are also part of the 
purification process. 
o It’s found in petroleumbased 
indoor coatings, gasoline, inks, oils, paints, plastics, 
rubber, cleaning solutions, and exterior exhaust fumes emanating into buildings. o It’s an irritant 
and probable carcinogen. The inhalation of benzene has been reported to 
cause dizziness, weakness, euphoria, headache, nausea, blurred vision, respiratory diseases, 
tremors, irregular heartbeat, liver and kidney damage, paralysis, and unconsciousness. 
trichloroethylene (TCE): 
o It’s found in a wide variety of products, such as inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes and 
adhesives. o It’s a potent liver carcinogen. 
o It’s found in virtually all indoor environments due to its widespread use in many kinds of 
products. Specifically, it may be found in: 
. ureaformaldehyde 
foam insulation (UFFI), particleboard and pressedwood 
. paper products, such as grocery bags, waxed papers, facial tissues, and paper towels; 
. common household cleaning agents; 
. stiffeners, wrinkleresisters, 
and adhesive binders in floor 
coverings, carpet backings, and permanentpress 
clothes; and 
. heating and cooking fuels, such as natural gas and kerosene, and cigarette smoke. o 
Formaldehyde causes watery eyes, nausea and wheezing. More seriously, the chemical is 
classified as carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. 
The study concluded that in an 1,800squarefoot 
house, the occupants should incorporate 15 
to 18 houseplants in 6to 
diameter containers to improve air quality. The larger and more 
vigorously they grow, the better. 
India Study 
The government of India published the results of a groundbreaking study in September 2008 
that analyzed the effects of certain species of plants on indoor air quality. Three plant species – 
areca palm, pothos (known as MotherinLaw's 
Tongue), and the Money Plant – were tested for 
15 years at the Paharpur Business Centre and Software Technology Incubator Park in New 
Delhi. The building was 20 years old and 50,000 square feet, and it housed more than 1,200 
plants for 300 workers. The study found that the building had the healthiest indoor air in the city. 
Specifically, compared to other buildings in New Delhi, the building showed reductions of: 
asthma by 9%. 
In addition, energy costs were reduced by 15% because less outside air infiltration was 
required. Worker productivity showed an increase of 20%, perhaps as a result of fewer sick 
days and increased bloodoxygen 
Is There a Downside to Indoor Plants? 
Some controversy exists regarding how healthy it is to keep plants indoors. In a recent paper 
about plants and indoor air quality, coauthored 
by BuildingEcology.com editor Hal Levin, it was 
concluded that the positive effects of keeping plants indoors were negligible, at best, and, in 
some cases, it could possibly be harmful. 
The authors conclude that there are "significant methodological issues" for previous research 
conducted. The positive gains, they argue, were likely the result of the potting soil and its 
abilities to cleanse or aerate indoor air, rather than the leaves of the plants themselves. 
Additionally, they point out, some of these earlier studies were conducted under circumstances 
that do not reflect realworld 
conditions, so testing results can be skewed. Experiments 
conducted in a sealed chamber, such as some of those performed by NASA, will have very 
different results than one conducted where ventilation rates mimic those in the average office 
building. And, these days, there are many interpretations for what an "average" work 
environment is. Every workplace is different, and every variable from 
the number of people, 
the level of ventilation, other airborne pollutants (such as personal scents, cleaning supplies, 
office printers, etc.) – can confuse any reasonable measurements, making an acrosstheboard 
recommendation realistically difficult. 
Additionally, keeping plants indoors affects the moisture content of the air, which must be 
regulated so as not to promote mold growth. Some people may have allergies to certain 
flowering plants, and moisture, along with airborne pollutants that are not effectively mitigated 
by plants, can exacerbate such problems for the building’s occupants. 
eye irritation by 52%; 
respiratory conditions by 34%; 
headaches by 24%; 
lung impairment by 12%; and 
Finally, as with any study promoting a point of view, consumers should be wary of who is behind 
it. Just as some of the most publicized research on heart health in the 1990s recommended 
eating oatmeal every morning was paid for by Quaker Oats, some plant studies have been 
scrutinized for their funding sources, as well. 
Homeowners should note whether plant containers are leaking, or if there are water stains 
under them. Overwatering 
indoor plants can lead to cosmetic and even moisturerelated 
structural problems, as well as mold and other serious indoor air quality issues. 
In summary, plants can generally be used to enhance the aesthetic environment and the air 
quality inside the home and other buildings, but care must be taken to account for potential 
allergies, the use of fertilizers and pesticides indoors, adequate ventilation and air flow, and the 
level of moisture maintained for the plants all 
factors that can affect the building and its 
Mother Nature 
Earthquake Preparedness 
Earthquakes are a serious threat to life and property not just in California, but in many parts of 
the United States. Areas of the country that are less prone to seismic activity typically have less 
stringent building codes that govern earthquake preparedness. Catastrophic earthquakes are 
rare, but even minor ones can cause substantial damage to homes that are not sufficiently 
Homeowners significantly decrease the probability that their homes will be adversely affected by 
a seismic event if these weak spots have been identified and addressed before an earthquake 
Facts and Figures 
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 45 states and territories in 
the United States are at moderate to very high risk for earthquakes. 
Damage resulting from earthquakes in the United States is estimated at $4.4 billion per year, 
according to a 2000 FEMA report. 
Shaking ground accounts for 99% of earthquakerelated 
damage to residences. Other 
events, such as fault ruptures, liquefaction of soil, dam failure, lateral 
spreading, landslides, and tsunamis account for the remaining 1% of damage. 
Potential Hazards 
Natural gas connections may rupture or break during an earthquake, which, if ignited by an 
errant spark or other catalyst, results in gas leaks, fire and/or an explosion. 
Toxic substances that are stored in breakable containers may spill during an earthquake and 
cause a hazard of inhalation, slipping, and burns and irritation due to skin exposure. 
Homeowners may want to check for the following: 
Full water heaters typically weigh approximately 450 pounds. Unbraced water heaters may fall 
over during an earthquake and rupture water, gas and/or electrical connections, resulting in an 
electrical or fire hazard. 
Homes that are not properly secured to their foundations or that do not have sturdy foundations 
may break loose and cause gas connections to rupture and a subsequent fire hazard. Older 
concrete foundations are at a higher risk because the concrete may have already started to 
weaken and crumble over time. Homes built on unreinforced concrete, or brick or stone 
masonry foundations are also at a higher risk. 
Stud walls holding up a home's crawlspace that are not properly braced for horizontal 
movement may fail, causing a home to collapse. 
Homes that are built on steep slopes may collapse if the posts that support them are not 
properly braced. 
Walls that are constructed out of unreinforced clay, concrete, stone, adobe or brick masonry 
may fail in an earthquake because the mortar that binds them together is typically not strong 
enough to sustain seismic activity. 
Rooms that are built over garages may collapse during an earthquake because the strength of 
the walls in the vicinity of the opening of the garage door is reduced. 
Unreinforced masonry chimneys may collapse during an earthquake. The section above the 
roofline is particularly at risk, and bricks may fall into the home. 
Heavy furniture, shelving and appliances that are not anchored may become dislodged during 
an earthquake and can cause damage or injury, or can block an emergency exit for occupants 
trying to escape. 
Windows may shatter during an earthquake and can cause injury. 
Any appliances in the home that run on natural gas should be securely anchored to the floor or 
Water and gas pipes should be flexible to prevent ruptures and leaks. 
If no automatic gas shutoff valve is installed, the manual gas shutoff valve should be in a 
location that is accessible to occupants in the event that they need to shut it off quickly. 
Hazardous materials should be kept in nonbreakable 
containers and stored securely away from 
heat sources and appliances. 
In summary, the extent of damage caused by an earthquake is typically more substantial if a 
home has not been prepared for an earthquake before it strikes. Homeowners can take 
appropriate measures by having their homes inspected annually by a Certified Master 
Tornado Inspections 
Tornadoes, also known as twisters and cyclones, are whirling columns of air that form with little 
warning and carve unpredictable paths of destruction through communities worldwide. 
America’s “Tornado Alley” – roughly the area between the Rocky Mountains and the 
Appalachian Mountains – where tornadoes kill dozens and cause billions of dollars in damage 
annually, sustains the majority of these storms. The extreme danger posed by tornadoes to 
families and their homes justifies the need for homeowners to learn some basic tips concerning 
tornado behavior, preparedness, and poststorm 
damage inspection. 
Cement foundations should not be seriously cracked or crumbling. 
Homes should be securely bolted to the foundation. 
Wood stud walls supporting the first floor should be braced with plywood panels nailed to the 
studs or diagonal wood sheathing. 
Freestanding water heaters should be braced with steel plumber’s tape or with metal straps 
attached to wall studs. 
Braces or plywood panels should surround and reinforce garage doors that are not in line with 
the rest of the house. 
Masonry foundations and walls should be strengthened with steel reinforcement. 
Columns and walls that support homes on hillsides should be adequately braced. 
There should be sheet metal straps and angle bracing installed to hold the unreinforced 
masonry chimney to the house. Plywood panels should be present at the ceiling or roof to 
prevent bricks from falling into the home. Children’s play areas should be located away from the 
Large appliances and furniture inside the home should be secured to the walls or floor with 
flexible cable, braided wire, or metal strapping. 
Heavy objects and mirrors should be installed away from beds. 
Cabinets that contain heavy and breakable objects should be secured with sliding bolts or 
childproof latches on the doors. 
What Causes Tornadoes? 
Tornadoes form from giant storms called supercells, which are rapidly rotating updrafts created 
when colder polar air meets warmer tropical air. Changing wind speeds and direction can cause 
rising air to rotate vertically, creating within the larger supercell what is known as a 
mesocyclone. For reasons not yet understood, columns of strong rotating air can develop within 
the mesocyclone, eventually extending from the cloud base to the ground in the form of a 
tornado. The size, shape and color of tornadoes vary greatly, from transparent, narrow funnels 
several hundred feet across to dark wedges wider than they are tall. 
Tornadoes damage small areas and thus cause less damage nationwide than hurricanes and 
tropical storms, but for those caught in their path, tornadoes can wreak havoc unmatched by 
any other weather phenomenon. Most tornadoes have wind speeds of less than 110 miles per 
hour and dissipate after several miles, but larger storms can exceed 300 miles per hour and 
devastate communities hundreds of miles apart. 
Facts and Figures 
In 1925, the nicknamed TriState 
Tornado that affected Missouri, Illinois and Indiana holds three 
records for traveling 219 miles at 73 mph and killing 295 people. 
Tornado strength is categorized by the following Enhanced Fujita Scale, whereby the storm 
receives an “F” rating from 0 to 5 based on the severity of the inflicted damage: 
Of the 50 states, Florida experiences the most tornadoes per unit area, while Oklahoma is hit by 
the strongest tornadoes per unit area. Due to its poor building construction and general lack of 
tornado awareness, Bangladesh has the highest annual tornado death toll of any country. 
Tornadoes in the northern hemisphere generally rotate in a counterclockwise direction, while the 
opposite is true in the southern hemisphere. 
Supercells spawn land tornadoes. Dust devils and “gustnadoes” appear similar to tornadoes but 
they are distinct and far less dangerous phenomena. 
A waterspout is a relatively weak tornado that forms over water as a result of cumulus 
congestus clouds. 
Tornadoes are intense and can be longlived. 
Consider the following extremes: 
EF0: The weakest type of tornado can cause superficial damage to structures and vegetation. 
EF1: This rated tornado can cause major roof damage, with mobile homes seriously damaged. 
EF2: This stronger tornado may result in roof loss and wall collapse, with mobile homes 
destroyed, and smaller trees uprooted. 
EF3: This is the maximum level that allows for reasonably effective residential sheltering in a 
interior room. Small cars can become projectiles, and large trees can be snapped. 
The Bridge CreekMoore 
Tornado that happened just outside Oklahoma City in 1999 had winds 
of 301 mph, the highest wind speed ever recorded. 
The Great Bend Tornado in Kansas that occurred in 1915 hurled a sack of flour 110 miles and a 
cancelled check 305 miles. 
EF5: As the result of this strongest and most dangerous tornado, wellbuilt 
homes can be lifted 
from their foundations and shredded in midair, 
then dispersed as coarse granules over large 
areas. Large trucks and farm equipment can be smashed into their component parts, 
skyscrapers may actually be deformed, and entire communities may be leveled. At a rate of 
occurrence of just 0.1%, EF5 tornadoes are extremely rare, yet they have caused more than 
20% of all tornado casualties. 
While no two tornadoes are alike, the anatomy of a tornado’s attack on a house is as systematic 
as it is fierce, and is defined as “a progressive failure *that+ begins topdown, 
then outsidein,” 
according to Timothy Marshall, a tornado expert who writes for Popular Mechanics. Within the 
first second, pummeling debris tears away a structure’s roof shingles and decking, while wind 
shatters and rushes through windows and raises the internal pressure. The upward force of the 
wind on the underside of the already weakened roof, combined with the uplift forces above the 
roof caused by the high wind, quickly overcome the relatively weak connections between the 
roof and the walls. The roof tears away from the house, leaving the exterior walls unsupported. 
In another second, the exterior walls blow out – first, the side walls parallel to the straightline 
winds, followed by the windward wall, and finally the back wall – leaving the interior walls 
unprotected against the maelstrom. An EF4 tornado needs only four seconds to wipe a 
foundation clean. 
Myth vs. Fact 
Knowing what not to do can be just as essential as taking the proper safety precautions. 
Misconceptions concerning tornadoes persist in the media, which may lead to avoidable 
damage and even unnecessary injuries and deaths. 
The Master Inspector Certification Board would like to dispel the following tornado myths that 
may harm a home’s occupants: 
MYTH: Open windows to equalize the barometric pressure between the interior and the exterior 
pressure caused by a nearby tornado, thereby preventing damage to the building. FACT: While 
a pressure imbalance does exist, it is not great enough to cause a building to explode outward, 
as was once hypothesized. Damage is primarily caused where wind breaches the building from 
the outside, which is why windows and other openings should remain closed. Moreover, 
openings on the windward side of a building actually increase internal wind pressure, resulting 
in additional uplift force on the roof. 
MYTH: The safest location in a house is its southwest corner. FACT: This notion originated in 
the 1887 text Tornadoes, from which it became conventional wisdom until a 1966 study 
indicated that the southwest corner is actually the most dangerous place to be during a tornado. 
The safest part of a structure during a tornado is the lowest central room, especially a bathroom 
or the area beneath a stairwell. 
EF4: At this level, most homes are completely destroyed, leaving a pile of debris on the 
foundation. A storm shelter is required to ensure safety. Trains and large trucks can be pushed 
over, and cars and large trees can be flung long distances. 
MYTH: Tornadoes always travel in a northeasterly direction. FACT: While in most areas 
tornadoes tend to follow their parent storms to the northeast, they may stop, change direction, 
or suddenly backtrack, seemingly at random. Local geography plays a part, too, such as in 
Minnesota, where tornadoes sometimes travel northwest, and in coastal south Texas, where 
they sometimes travel southeast. 
MYTH: Tornadoes are “attracted to” mobile homes. FACT: The inordinate severity of damage 
inflicted on trailer parks, compared to conventional homes, can be attributed to the weakness of 
the building materials commonly used in mobile homes, their lack of foundations, and their small 
MYTH: Large auditoriums are safer during tornadoes than houses. FACT: Many studies have 
concluded that largespan 
structures, such as auditoriums and gymnasiums, are vulnerable to 
high winds because of their high surface area. As such, these buildings should be avoided. 
MYTH: Tornadoes do not strike cities. FACT: This myth is based on the comparatively small 
area occupied by downtown areas, which make them uncommon targets for tornadoes. Also, 
the urban heatisland 
effect may discourage the formation of weaker tornadoes. Significant 
tornadoes are unaffected by turbulent warm air, however, and EF4 and EF5 tornadoes have 
struck Atlanta, Georgia, Lubbock, Texas and even London, England. 
MYTH: Mountains, lakes and rivers are significant barriers against tornadoes. FACT: Tornadoes 
have formed over rivers and lakes, and more than a dozen have crossed over the Mississippi 
River. Twisters have been observed as high as 12,000 feet above sea level and ascend 3,000foot 
ridges without slowing down. 
Damage to Homes 
While much tornado destruction is obvious, some of the damage is only apparent upon closer 
inspection. Even an insurance adjuster can miss critical structural and safety defects that may 
cost the homeowner a fortune to repair. According to CNN, a jury found that a major insurer 
acted “recklessly and with malice” while handling insurance claims resulting from the 1999 
Oklahoma tornado, which posed serious safety defects to a home’s occupants. An unbiased 
and comprehensive assessment of the damage inflicted on a home by a tornado can be 
obtained by hiring a Certified Master Inspector®. 
Specifically, the following items and conditions should be assessed for damage: 
gas leaks. Uprooted trees may have damaged underground gas pipes, which can lead to deadly 
electrical damage. Electrical equipment should be dried and checked before being returned to 
service. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off 
the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the 
fuse box or circuit breaker, call a utility repair person or an electrician first for advice; 
plumbing. Tornadoes can easily shake and rattle a home, causing plumbing lines to twist and 
crack. Following the storm, homeowners can check their plumbing by turning on all plumbing 
garage doors. Due to their large surface area, garage doors can be damaged or blown in before 
other parts of the house are damaged. The wind may then damage the interior and accelerate 
the home’s collapse. Garage door system technicians can be hired to install horizontal bracing 
and impactresistant 
coverings, and to strengthen weak hinges and glider wheel tracks. Old and 
damaged doors should be replaced. 
Tips for Homeowners 
If a tornado is in your area, immediately take shelter indoors, preferably in a basement or 
room, closet, hallway, or the void beneath a stairwell. Bathrooms are generally safe, as 
plumbing fixtures strengthen the walls and anchor them to the ground, and bathtubs can protect 
against flying debris. Crouch face down beneath a heavy table or workbench, and cover your 
head with your hands to protect against falling debris. Do not leave the home until the storm has 
passed. If possible, cover yourself with some sort of thick padding, such as blankets or a 
Also, avoid the following areas: 
fixtures, checking cabinets for signs of water damage, and checking ceilings from below for 
staining. Avoid using toilets if sewage lines have been damaged; 
roof and siding. Cracking, tears and gouges caused to the roof and siding by flying debris will 
eventually allow for the entry of rainwater and snowmelt. Gable roofs are especially vulnerable 
to damage from the high winds generated by tornadoes. For additional support, attach wall 
studs to roof rafters using hurricane clips, not nails; 
chimney damage. Chimney damage may slow or stop the ventilation of carbon monoxide (CO) 
– a poisonous, colorless, odorless and tasteless gas – allowing it to accumulate in the living 
area. Inspect the chimney closely for damage in a tornadodamaged 
windows and gutters. Flying debris can smash windows, damage windowpanes and shutters, rip 
screens, and dent and tear away gutters; 
foundation. Strong winds can cause foundations to uplift. Check the perimeter of crawlspaces 
for any changes, and inspect masonry for signs of separation and cracking; 
interior. Inspect for stress cracks in the corners where walls and ceilings meet, and especially 
the areas above windows and doors. Use a level to check for cupping of the floor and bowing of 
the walls. Water stains and mold on interior walls may appear some time after the tornado, 
indicating overlooked damage to the roof that has permitted water intrusion; and 
rooms with many windows. Before any other part of the house fails, windows typically shatter 
and allow the entry of dangerous projectiles, such as broken masonry and gravel, in addition to 
glass shards from the windows itself; 
rooms with exterior walls. Exterior walls will fail before interior walls, which often survive intact; 
under heavy objects that are located on the floor above. A piano or refrigerator may fall through 
a weakened floor and crush anything below; and 
mobile homes. Only 10% of Americans live in mobile homes but nearly half of all tornado 
fatalities happen in them. Mobile homes that are not tied down can be flipped in 60to 
winds, and even small tornadoes can cause them to completely disintegrate, leaving their 
occupants unprotected. Leave a mobile home immediately and seek shelter elsewhere. If none 
can be found, lie flat in the nearest ditch with your hands shielding your head. 
Following a storm, do not use matches, lighters or appliances or operate light switches until you 
are sure there are no gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, open a window and 
leave the building as quickly as possible. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can, 
and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. Wait for a professional to turn the gas back 
In summary, tornadoes are devastating and unpredictable, but a little knowledge concerning 
their basic behavior can save lives. Homeowners can benefit by being aware and prepared in 
order to protect both their families and their properties. 
Wind Mitigation 
Wind mitigation is the implementation of certain building techniques in order to limit damage 
caused by intense winds. 
A Few Facts About Wind Storms and Wind Insurance: 
Watch for atmospheric conditions that accompany tornadoes, such as a dark, greenish sky, 
large hailstones, a cloud of debris, a roaring noise, or a lowering, spinning storm cloud. 
Monitor the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on the radio or TV and listen for tornado advisories. 
A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for a tornado to form, while a tornado 
warning means a tornado has been sighted or detected on radar. 
If a tornado is approaching, shut off the water either at the main meter or at the water main that 
leads into the home. 
Before a storm, shut off the electricity, as sparks from electrical switches could ignite gas and 
cause an explosion. 
Keep all hazardous materials, such as poisons and chemical solvents, stored in a secure area 
away from emergency food and water supplies. 
Arrange furniture so that chairs and beds are away from windows, mirrors and picture frames. 
Secure topheavy, 
freestanding furniture, such as bookcases and China cabinets, with 
corner brackets, eyebolts, flexible cable, or braided wire, and place heavy items on 
the bottom shelves. This is an advisable safety precaution in general for families with small 
children and those who reside in earthquakeprone 
Keep a disaster supply kit on hand. It should include a firstaid 
kit, a flashlight with extra 
batteries, essential medicines, a batteryoperated 
radio, emergency food and water, and a 
can opener. 
Install a safe room or storm shelter in or near the house. 
In 2006, Citizens Insurance, one of the largest property insurers in Florida, requested a 45% 
rate increase for wind insurance. Other insurers took similar actions. 
In Florida, the portion of a homeowner's premium covering wind damage can be up to 70% of 
the total, depending on location. 
Wind mitigation benefits homeowners, private insurers, and all levels of government. 
Incentives for Wind Mitigation: 
Mortgage lenders in Florida require homeowners to carry wind storm insurance in order to be 
approved for a home loan. Insurers may not provide wind storm insurance to homeowners 
whose homes are vulnerable to wind damage. 
Checklist for Wind Mitigation Techniques: 
garage doors: These commonly fail during windstorms due to: 
o inadequate doortrack 
strength and mounting systems; and o flimsy metal panels. 
The following features can protect a garage door from wind damage: 
o no windows; o the tracks for the door that have six to nine mounting brackets, or continuous 
mounting; o track brackets that are securely attached to the wall; and o horizontal and/or 
vertical reinforcement on all panels. 
Homeowners can benefit from reduced insurance premiums offered in some states if they use 
wind mitigation techniques to reinforce their homes. The Gulf Coast states, which are most 
prone to wind storm damage from hurricanes, have each considered mandating incentives to 
mitigate damage due to wind. Mississippi and Texas currently do not have such legislation, 
although Florida has been successful. Following Hurricane Andrew, Florida passed a law 
requiring insurance companies to offer their customers discounts and credits for existing 
building features and home improvements that reduce damage and loss from wind. In order to 
qualify for this discount, homes must undergo a certified home wind inspection. However, many 
Floridians do not know of this law. 
Those with wind storm insurance can avoid a costly deductible. Deductibles for homes in 
areas can exceed $20,000, meaning that mild to moderate wind damage might 
not be covered by insurance at all. If proper wind mitigation techniques have been used, these 
expenses can be avoided altogether. 
Wind mitigation helps protect the home from damage. Even if a home is insured, it is always 
costly when a house is damaged, both for the homeowner and the insurer. Repairs can take 
months, especially during material and labor shortages that follow massive destruction to entire 
communities, as was the case after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana. 
opening protection: Glass doors and windows should be replaced with impactresistant 
They should be structurally attached to the building in order to prevent the entire window from 
popping out of its frame. Sliding glass doors are especially vulnerable to flying debris due to 
their large expanse. Once an opening is created during a wind storm, the pressure within the 
house can rise high enough to cause the roof to fail in areas of low pressure. 
roof covering: There are many kinds of roof covering materials, and some resist wind damage 
better than others. The most common roof covering materials in Florida are composition 
shingles and tiles. A key factor in roof covering performance is the method of attachment of the 
roof covering material to the roof deck. Nails—not staples—should be used to fasten these 
roof shape: "Roof shape" refers to the geometry of the roof, rather than the type of roof 
covering. The endwalls 
of gable roofs extend vertically to the sloping roofline. These gable end179 
walls, if not properly built and braced, have been known to fail outward due to the negative 
suction on the wall. Additionally, field testing has shown that hip roofs receive up to 40% less 
pressure from wind than gable roofs. 
roof deck attachment: According to insurance claim data, a house becomes a major loss once 
the roof deck fails, even partially. The most common roof deck types are plywood and OSB. The 
most important feature by far of the roof deck is the attachment to the framing compared to the 
deck's thickness. 
The following building techniques can help prevent wind damage: 
o roof coverings using shingles that meet the FBC requirements; o roof decks that have been 
installed with large nails and close spacing; o hurricane clips/straps that hold the roof structure 
to the walls; and o protection of windows and glass doors with impactresistant 
glazing or other 
connections: This connection is a critical safeguard that keeps the roof attached to 
the building and acts to transfer the uplift loads into the vertical walls. This connection is crucial 
to the performance of the building due to the large negative pressures acting on the roof. Proper 
installation is essential to connector performance. 
secondary water resistance: This is a layer of protection that shields the home in the event that 
the roof covering fails. It will reduce leakage if the shingles are blown off. A secondary water 
barrier is relatively rare in homes. 
The two most common types are: 
o selfadhering 
modified bitumen underlayment, which is applied to the exterior of all 
joints; and o foam seal, which is sprayed onto the underside of the decking. 
In summary, wind mitigation is a strategy designed to limit the amount of wind damage inflicted 
on a structure. Various incentives are in place to motivate homeowners to implement these 
enhancements, and Certified Master Inspectors® may be able to determine the improvements 
that are necessary. 
Windbreaks are dense rows of trees and shrubs designed to reduce wind speed before it 
reaches a building. These landscape elements provide numerous other perks for the 
homeowner, their neighborhood, and the environment. 
Some of the advantages provided by windbreaks, beyond simple wind mitigation, include the 
Many animals rely on windbreaks. Food, shelter from severe weather, nesting sites, and a 
means of escape cover are all provided by the vegetation that composes a windbreak. For 
example, the planting of windbreaks during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s is believed to have 
allowed the expansion of woodland birds and other creatures, such as Mississippi kites and fox 
squirrels. Birds, in particular, are known to rely on windbreaks for temporary cover during winter 
storms. Even large mammals, such as whitetailed 
deer, use windbreaks for cover, food and 
fawning. Employ a variety of trees and shrubs in your windbreak to create an abundance of 
different kinds of nuts, seeds and berries, which will, in turn, attract a diversity of wildlife. 
While any vegetation will increase the appeal of an otherwise barren yard, a uniform, wellmaintained 
windbreak can actually increase property values with their pleasing aesthetics. Also, 
they allow the homeowner to strategically screen out undesirable sights. 
Windbreaks are effective for noise deflection. Windbreaks reduce the infiltration of traffic noise 
into a property by absorbing and deflecting it with leaves and large branches. In addition, traffic 
noises will be replaced with the sounds of rustling leaves or the singing of birds that are drawn 
to the vegetation. 
Windbreaks assist agriculture. According to the University of Florida’s School of Forest 
Resources and Conservation, "A welldesigned 
windbreak located in the direction of a prevailing 
wind can increase crop yield, reduce soil erosion, influence microclimate around the crops, 
increase irrigation efficiency, and control the spread of some pathogens." Erosion, in particular, 
is a serious threat to farmers. By clearing trees from the Western regions of Canada and the 
United States, farmers in the 1930s inadvertently encouraged evaporation and subsequent 
erosion that were largely responsible for the infamous Dust Bowl. Although rains eventually 
remedied the situation, farmers learned to place windbreaks around their lands to keep soil 
damp during droughts. 
Windbreaks provide snow control. A properly placed windbreak prevents snowdrifts in areas 
such as driveways and building entrances. Valuable time and effort can then be spent on 
activities other than snow removal. 
Windbreaks work either by deflecting the wind up and over a building, thereby forming a 
protective wind shadow, or by catching it to reduce its speed. And as the windbreak captures 
the winter wind, so too does the wind chill diminish. For example, if the outside temperature is 
12° F (11° 
C), a windbreak can reduce a 20mph 
wind to 5 mph, and the wind chill will be 
reduced from 22° 
F (30° 
C) to a more bearable 8° F (11° 
The best windbreaks block wind close to the ground by using fastgrowing 
trees and shrubs that 
have low crowns. Deciduous trees, while they are favored as shade trees during the summer, 
lose their leaves in cold weather, which makes them less effective than evergreens at stopping 
the frigid winter wind. The best choices are dense, fat, fastgrowing 
conifers that will mature to a 
height higher than the roof. These qualities may be found with Norway, white, and Colorado 
blue spruce. 
Tips for Homeowners: 
Arrange the windbreak in such a way that it will provide a conduit for breezes and desired 
In summary, homeowners can use welldesigned 
windbreaks for many purposes. 
For maximum protection, plant your windbreak at a distance from your home of three to five 
times the height of the mature trees. Studies have shown, however, that the effective distance 
of wind reduction is sometimes as high as 30 times the height of the windbreak, depending on 
the tree species. 
Do not plant trees too close to the home’s south side, as this will reduce the warmth supplied by 
the winter sun. 
Arrange windbreaks in multiple rows to increase their effectiveness. 
Do not prune the lower branches of the windbreak, as this will increase the wind speed near the 
Thin the trees and shrubs as they grow to ensure that competition does not jeopardize the 
health of the windbreak. For instance, you can plant trees 3 feet apart, but then you should 
remove every second tree when their crowns begin to intersect. 
Incorporate numerous plant species in the windbreak to impede wind from ground level to the 
treetops. Even nonliving 
yard features, such as walls, fences and raised soils, can be 
incorporated into a single windbreak. 
Decide which direction the prevailing winds come from in your area so you know where the best 
places are to plant the windbreak. 
Be careful not to plant large trees too close to the home, as they may fall during a storm, shed 
leaves or needles on your roof, allow pests to access your roof, or even penetrate your 
basement walls with their root structure. If you are experiencing any of these conditions, be sure 
to talk about it with your Certified Master Inspector® during your next scheduled inspection. 
Tree Dangers 
Although trees are generally a desirable feature of home landscaping, they can pose a threat to 
buildings in a number of different ways. Homeowners may want to educate themselves about 
these potentially dangerous situations. 
Tree Roots and Foundations 
Contrary to popular belief, the Master Inspector Certification Board has found that tree roots 
cannot normally pierce through a building's foundation. They can, however, damage a 
foundation in the following ways: 
Roots can leach water from the soil beneath foundations, causing the structures to settle and 
sink unevenly. 
Other Dangers: 
Falling trees and branches can topple power lines and communication lines. 
Structural Defects in Trees 
Trees with structural defects likely to cause failure to all or part of a tree can damage nearby 
buildings. The following are indications that a tree has a structural defect: 
Roots can sometimes penetrate a building's foundation through preexisting 
Large root systems that extend beneath a house can cause foundation uplift. 
Trees that are too close to buildings may be fire hazards. Soffit vents provide easy access for 
flames to enter a house. 
Leaves and broken branches can clog gutters, potentially causing ice dams or water penetration 
into the building. 
Old, damaged and otherwise weak trees may fall and endanger lives and property. Large, weak 
branches, too, are a hazard, especially if weighed down by ice. 
Tree roots can potentially penetrate underground drainage pipes, especially when they leak. 
Water that leaks from a drainage or sanitary pipe can encourage root growth in the direction of 
the leak, where the roots may eventually enter the pipe and obstruct its flow. 
Trees may be used by insects and rodents to gain access to the building. 
dead twigs, dead branches, or small, offcolor 
defects. Some species of maple, ash and pear often form weak branch unions, 
while some other fastgrowing 
species of maple, aspen, ailanthus and willow are weakwooded 
and prone to breakage at a relatively young age; 
cankers, which are localized areas on branches and stems of a tree where the bark is sunken or 
missing. Cankers are caused by wounding or disease. The presence of a canker increases the 
chance that the stem will break near the canker. A tree with a canker that encompasses more 
than half of the tree's circumference may be hazardous even if the exposed wood appears 
the tree is leaning at more than 15 degrees from vertical. Generally, trees bent to this degree 
should be removed if they pose a danger. Trees that have grown in a leaning orientation are not 
as hazardous as trees that were originally straight but subsequently developed a lean due to 
wind or root damage. Large trees that have tipped in intense winds seldom recover. The general 
of the tree and any uplifted soil on the side of the tree opposite the lean provide 
clues as to when the lean developed. 
Tips for Homeowners: 
Inspect your trees periodically for hazards, especially large, old trees. Every tree likely to have a 
problem should be inspected from bottom to top. Look for signs of decay, and continue up the 
trunk toward the crown, noting anything that might indicate a potential hazard. 
In summary, trees that are too close to buildings can potentially cause structural damage. 
Lightning is the "visible discharge of static electricity within a cloud, between clouds, or between 
the earth and a cloud," as defined by Underwriters Laboratories. Lightning is unpredictable and 
a serious threat to buildings and their occupants virtually everywhere. 
advanced decay; wood that is soft, punky or crumbly, or a cavity where the wood is missing can 
create a serious hazard. Evidence of fungal activity, such as mushrooms, conks and brackets 
growing on root flares, stems or branches are indications of advanced decay. A tree usually 
decays from the inside out, eventually forming a cavity, but sound wood is also added to the 
outside of the tree as it grows. Trees with sound outer wood shells may be relatively safe, but 
this depends on the ratio of soundtodecayed 
wood, and other defects that might be present; 
cracks, which are deep splits through the bark, extending into the wood of the tree. Cracks are 
very dangerous because they indicate that the tree is presently failing; 
forks. Elm, oak, maple, yellow poplar, and willow are especially prone to breakage at 
weak forks; 
Binoculars are helpful for examining the higher portions of tall trees for damage. 
When planting trees, they should be kept far from the house. It is impossible for the homeowner 
to reliably predict how far the roots will spread, and trees that are too close to a building may be 
a fire hazard. 
Do not damage roots. In addition to providing nutrition for the tree, roots anchor the tree to the 
ground. Trees with damaged roots are more likely to lean and topple over than trees with 
healthy roots. Vehicles are capable of damaging a tree's root system. 
Dead trees within the range of a house should be removed. If they are not removed, the small 
twigs will fall first, followed by the larger branches, and eventually the trunk. This process can 
take several years. 
Facts About Lightning: 
Between 2002 and 2005, lightning caused an annual average of $213 million in property 
The types of dangers from lightning to houses and occupants include: 
damage to the structure and endangered health from mold colonies, if the building was not dried 
quickly following fire suppression. 
Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST) 
CSST is a relatively new type of gas tubing that has been widely installed in houses and in 
commercial applications in recent years. Its small diameter makes it flexible and relatively easy 
to install when compared with traditional, rigid, heavywalled 
pipes, although this same quality is 
believed to make it susceptible to fire due to lightning strikes. Lightning that travels down the 
CSST can burn holes in the tubing and allow gas leakage and fire. In the worst cases, gas leaks 
have led to disastrous gas explosions. CSST has been found to be susceptible to damage from 
direct and even nearby lightning strikes. 
These claims have lead to a classaction 
lawsuit against manufacturers of CCST (Titeflex, 
Ward, OmegaFlex®, and Parker Hannifin) installed in homes as of September 5, 2006. Plaintiffs 
claimed that the CSST tubing is not thick enough to prevent becoming damaged in the event of 
a lightning strike, and that CSST manufacturers failed to warn consumers about such dangers. 
The defendants claimed that CSST is safe if properly installed, in accordance with local codes 
and the manufacturers’ instructions. According to the Lightning Protection Institute, dangerous 
CSST has been installed in more than a million homes in the United States. 
Benjamin Franklin invented the first lightning rod in 1752 – a kite outfitted with a metal key while 
waiting impatiently for the completion of a church on top of which he would mount a 
lightning rod. 
Lightning comes up from the earth – as well as down from a cloud from 
high vertical features, 
such as chimneys and trees. 
A typical lightning bolt carries 50,000 amps and tens of millions of volts, and can reach 50,000° 
F. “Superbolts” may be 100 times more powerful than typical bolts and travel much farther, too; 
one such superbolt went from Waco to Dallas, Texas, after having traveled about 118 miles. 
According to the National Weather Service, of the 34 people killed by lightning in the United 
States in 2009, all were outdoors when they were struck. Thus, homes provide a great deal of 
safety against lightning strikes. Interestingly, the same report indicates that 82% of lightning 
casualties were male. 
Permanent injuries caused by lightning strikes are predominantly neurological and can include 
sleep disorders, attention deficits, numbness, dizziness, irritability, fatigue, depression, and an 
inability to sit for long periods of time. 
damaged appliances from power surges; 
electrocution risk; 
fire risk to the building and its occupants; 
damage to the structure from water used to douse a fire by the fire department; and 
Identification of CSST 
Typically, these products may be visible in attic spaces, along floor joists, above basements, or 
connected to exposed appliances, such as water heaters. The piping can be identified by its 
manufacturer’s mark, each of which is listed below: 
Ward's CSST is stamped with the mark “Wardflex®.” 
Additional bonding to ground is recommended for houses with CSST. 
Thunderstorm Safety Tips for Homeowners: 
Avoid washing your hands, bathing/showering, doing laundry, and washing dishes activities 
that put you in direct contact with running water. 
Lightning Protection Systems 
Lightning protection systems are devices intended to divert lightning into lowresistance 
paths to 
or from the earth and away from nonconducting 
parts of a structure. 
Lightning Rods 
Metal rods are fastened to the building to intercept electrical discharges that might otherwise 
strike a building component, such as a chimney or metal roof. Electrical discharges striking the 
air terminal are directed through metal conductors to a grounding system and thence into the 
Controversy has existed for centuries concerning whether lightning rods should have blunt or 
sharp tips. Recent studies have found that moderately blunt metal rods are better 
receptors than sharper rods or very blunt rods. 
In summary, lightning can be very dangerous to homes and its occupants, although devices and 
measures exist to limit this danger. 
OmegaFlex's CSST is stamped with the marks “TracPipe®” or “CounterStrike®.” 
Parker Hannifin's CSST is stamped with the mark “Parflex®.” 
Titeflex's CSST is stamped with the mark “Gastite®.” 
Unplug sensitive appliances and electronic equipment, such as computers and telephones, from 
electrical outlets and phone lines. Surge protectors are helpful, but they should not be relied 
upon during a storm. 
Stay off corded phones, computers, and other electronic equipment that put you in direct 
contact with electricity. If you are unable to unplug them, turn them off. Lightning may strike 
nearby electric or phone lines and enter your home. 
Unplug other appliances, such as air conditioners. 
Stay away from windows. 
Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac 
In almost all suburban and rural regions of the United States and Canada, homeowners run the 
risk of developing potentially debilitating, allergic symptoms from exposure to urushiolsecreting 
plants. This potent, clear oil causes an itching rash (called contact dermatitis) in 350,000 people 
each year, but these numbers can be reduced through education and by taking appropriate 
precautions. Exposure can put sufferers out of work for days or weeks, and they may even 
require hospitalization. 
Urushiol oil is potent just 
0.25 ounces of the allergen is sufficient to cause a rash on every 
person on earth, according to the Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Information Center. The oil 
begins to penetrate the skin within minutes after contact, but the rash usually takes 12 to 72 
hours to appear, at which point the person experiences severe itching, redness and swelling of 
the skin, followed by blisters. While the rash appears to spread, it is not contagious, but it will 
continue to grow due to differing rates of the immune system's response to the oil. 
A few other important facts about urushiol oil: 
Urushiol oil is found in virtually every part of the host plant, including the leaves, vines and roots. 
Tearing the plant in an attempt to kill it will release far more oil than can be contracted from just 
accidentally brushing against it. 
The Three Most Notorious Allergenic Plants in North America 
A segment of the population – perhaps as much as 30% is 
not allergic to urushiol oil, although 
many people may become sensitized after repeated exposure. 
Never burn any plants having this oil. Urishiol vapors can travel long distances, and inhaling 
them can create potentially lifethreatening 
respiratory distress. 
Do not handle dead urushiolsecreting 
plants. The oil can remain active for several years, so 
handling dead leaves and vines can cause a reaction. 
Oil transferred from the plant to other objects (such as pet fur) can cause a rash if it comes into 
contact with human skin. Domesticated animals and wildlife do not appear to be allergic to 
The oil may be removed with alcohol or cold water for a short period following exposure. 
Poison ivy accounts for the majority of contact dermatitis resulting from urushiol oil. 
o Habitat: Poison ivy grows throughout much of suburban and rural North America, 
including the Canadian maritime provinces, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and all U.S. states east 
of the Rockies except North Dakota, as well as in mountainous areas of Mexico below 4,900 
feet (1,500 m). It is common in wooded areas, especially along lawn edges, as well as in 
exposed rocky areas, and in open fields and disturbed areas. o Identification: Poison ivy can be 
found in any of the following three forms: 
. as a trailing vine or groundcover that is 4 to 10 inches long; 
. as a shrub that can grow up to 4 feet tall; and 
. as a climbing vine that grows on trees or some other support, which may act as a tree limb. 
Poison sumac is a highly poisonous woody shrub or small tree. Although its rarity reduces the 
incidence of human exposure, the plant is far more virulent than other urushiolsecreting 
o Habitat: Poison sumac grows exclusively in wet soils, typically in peat bogs and swamps 
of the eastern United States and Canada. o Identification: Poison sumac is a shrub or small 
tree that can grow up to 20 feet high. Unlike poison ivy and poison oak, poison sumac leaves 
come in long, paired rows with an additional leaf at the end. The leaves may have black spots 
made up of urushiol oil, which turns dark upon exposure to air. The fruits are semispherical, 
small and white, while nonpoisonous 
sumac berries are red. 
In summary, urushiolsecreting 
plants should be protected against in order to avoid painful 
allergic reactions. Homeowners should be aware of the plant species that may surround their 
homes and take steps to remove those that threaten the health of their family members. 
Rodents are a problem not just because they can destroy personal property and damage a 
home's structure, but also because they can spread serious diseases to humans and their pets. 
disease may be spread directly by 
touching rodents or their urine, feces or 
saliva or 
indirectly by 
coming into contact with fleas and other insects that have fed on an 
infected rodent host. Homeowners should use extreme caution and wear appropriate personal 
protective equipment when entering an area in the home that is known to be infested with 
Poison oak is a poisonous, upright shrub. Just as poison ivy merely resembles actual ivy, 
poison oak owes its name to a superficial resemblance to the oak tree’s leaves. 
o Habitat: Poison oak comes in two regionbased 
. Atlantic poison oak, which can be found growing in forests, thickets, and dry, sandy fields; and 
. western poison oak, which is found only on the North American Pacific coast. It is typically 
found in damp, semishady 
areas near running water but thrives in direct sunlight and requires 
water only in early spring. The plant is common in Douglas fir forests and California oak 
woodlands. Poison oak vines climb far up the trunks of coastal redwoods, sometimes killing 
small trees. o Identification: Due to its tendency to mimic its surroundings, identifying poison oak 
can be difficult. In open sunlight, it grows as a dense shrub, and as a climbing vine in shaded 
areas. Its leaves are somewhat larger than poison ivy leaves, although, similarly, poison oak 
displays an alternating threeleaf 
pattern. The leaves are hairy, scalloped and toothed, 
resembling real oak leaves, although they tend to be glossier. The leaf colors range from bronze 
to green, and red and pink in the fall. Poison oak’s small, round fruit emerges from white 
flowers. Once the leaves have shed in the winter, the plant may be identified by black marks 
where milky sap once cooled and dried. 
Regardless of its form, alternating clusters of three almondshaped 
leaves that range in color 
from light to dark green, turning red in the fall, easily distinguish poison ivy. Its leaf surfaces are 
smooth and become shiny with maturity, and their edges may or may not be ridged. Poison ivy 
vines have no thorns. 
Some diseases resulting from direct contact with mice and rats include: 
Some diseases resulting from indirect contact with mice and rats include: 
Rocky Mountain spotted fever. 
Rodents also pose a danger to the integrity of the structures they inhabit. They have strong 
teeth and they may chew through structures to gain access to food sources. The best method 
for preventing exposure to rodents is to prevent rodent infestation in the first place, according to 
the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 
How can you tell whether a home is infested? 
Actual rodent sightings in the home are a good indicator that a severe infestation may be in 
progress. Mild cases of infestation may not result in actual rodent sightings. 
Indicators of an infestation include: 
hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS); 
hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome; 
Lassa fever; 
lymphocytic choriomeningitis; 
South American arenaviruses; and 
Colorado tick fever; 
human granulocytic anaplasmosis; 
lyme disease; 
murine typhus; 
scrub typhus; 
relapsing fever; and 
chewing or clawing sounds that come from inside or outside the home. Noises may even come 
from the roof, as treedwelling 
rodents may try to gain access to a home from above the living 
stale smells coming from hidden areas; 
evidence of structural damage that can provide entry points into the home; 
evidence of gnawing and chewing on food packaging; 
nesting material found in small piles, such as shredded paper, fabric, and dried plant matter; 
rodent droppings anywhere in the home, especially near food packages in drawers and 
cupboards, and under the sink. 
How can rodent infestation be prevented? 
The following measures can be taken to eliminate rodents' food sources, according to the CDC: 
Dispose of household trash on a frequent and regular basis, and eliminate clutter in and around 
the property to discourage nesting. 
Mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a nickel, and rats can squeeze through a hole the 
size of a half dollar, according to the CDC. Consequently, smaller gaps may be filled cheaply 
and easily with steel wool, and caulk may be used to seal it in place. Larger gaps and holes may 
be filled with lath screen or lath metal, cement, hardware cloth, or metal sheeting. 
Common places where gaps may be found inside the home are: 
between floor and wall junctures. 
Common places where gaps may be found outside the home include: 
around holes for electrical, plumbing, cable and gas lines. 
Any potential nesting sites outside the home should be eliminated. Elevate hay, woodpiles, and 
garbage cans at least a foot off the ground. Move woodpiles far away from the house. Get rid of 
old trucks, cars and old tires that mice and rats could use as homes. Keep grass cut short, and 
keep shrubbery planted within 100 feet of the home welltrimmed. 
Keep food in thick plastic or metal containers with tightfitting 
Clean up spilled food right away, and wash dishes and cooking utensils soon after use. 
Keep outside cooking areas and grills clean. 
Always put pet food away after use and do not leave pets' food or water bowls out overnight. 
Keep bird feeders away from the house. Utilize squirrel guards to limit access to feeders by 
squirrels and other rodents. 
Use thick plastic or metal garbage cans with tightfitting 
Keep compost bins as far away from the house as possible. 
inside, under and behind kitchen cabinets, refrigerators and stoves; 
inside closets near the floor's corners; 
around the fireplace; 
around doors; 
around plumbing pipes under sinks and washing machines; 
around the piping for hot water heaters and furnaces; 
around floor vents and dryer vents; 
inside the attic; 
in the basement or crawlspace; 
near the basement and laundry room floor drains; and 
in the roof among the rafters, gables and eaves; 
around windows; 
around doors; 
around the foundation; 
near attic vents and crawlspace vents; 
under doors; and 
What should be done if a house is found to be infested with rodents? 
It is important to stay away from rodents, and to protect children and pets from direct and 
indirect contact if rodents are found in the home. Droppings should be handled only with 
extreme caution, even if they have dried. A face mask and gloves should be worn if handling 
and cleaning up these droppings because disturbing fecal particles may precipitate airborne 
contaminants. Affected areas should be sterilized after the droppings have been removed. 
In mild cases of infestation, homeowners may choose to eliminate the rodents themselves. They 
should make sure to take preventative measures while doing so. To remove rodents, 
homeowners will need to use traps or rodenticides. 
Some different types of traps include: 
glue boards, which are lowcost 
devices that use sticky substances to trap rodents, requiring a 
further decision regarding disposal, since such traps are not lethal. 
Traps should be set in any area where there is evidence of frequent rodent activity. Some 
rodents, particularly rats, are very cautious, and several days may pass before they approach 
the traps. Other rodents, such as house mice and deer mice, are less cautious and may be 
trapped more quickly. Glue traps and live traps may scare mice that are caught live, causing 
them to urinate. This may increase a homeowner's risk of being exposed to diseases, since the 
rodent urine may contain germs and diseaseborne 
Rodenticides are products intended to kill rodents and are typically sold as powders in bait and 
tracking form. Some rodenticides include: 
tracking powders, which are rodenticides combined with a powdery material. The powder sticks 
to the rodents' feet and fur and is swallowed when the animals groom themselves. After 
consuming the chemical poison contained in the bait or tracking powder, the rodents die. Some 
rodenticides (including tracking powders) may be legally applied only by certified pesticide 
applicators because they may pose a risk to human health. 
The following measures should be observed when an infestation is being eliminated: 
Glue boards should be placed in dry, dustfree 
areas, as moisture and dust will reduce their 
It is advisable to contact a professional exterminator to deal with more severe infestations, since 
rodents reproduce constantly and quickly. 
lethal traps, such as snap traps, that are designed to trap and kill rodents; 
live traps, such as cagetype 
traps, that capture rodents alive and unharmed, requiring that the 
rodents then be released or killed; and 
baits, which combine rodenticides with food to attract rodents. They may be formulated as 
blocks or paste and may be enclosed in a bait station; 
Traps and baits should be placed in areas where children and pets cannot reach them. 
Products should be used according to the label's directions and precautions. 
Only traps that are appropriate to the type and size of the targeted rodent should be used. 
In summary, rodent infestation poses a serious risk to human health, and extreme caution must 
be taken when eliminating the problem. 
Bed Bugs 
Bed bugs are small, flightless, rustcolored 
parasites that feed on the blood of humans and 
other warmblooded 
Bed bugs were diminished to an historical footnote after their neareradication 
in the 1950s, but 
they are reemerging 
in a big way. At the EPA’s National Bed Bug Summit in 2009, researchers 
decided that the parasite’s revival is more appropriately termed a pandemic rather than an 
epidemic, noting its rapid spread across large regions and different continents. For those 
afflicted by the bug, humiliated and defeated by its persistence, many prefer to refer to the 
infestation as “house herpes.” The United States has seen a 50fold 
increase in bed bug 
infestations over the last five years, according to the National Pest Management Association. An 
entomologist told MSNBC, “It’s like the return of the woolly mammoth,” as many of his peers had 
previously never seen a single bed bug in their careers. The outbreak has affected most parts of 
North America and Europe, especially in urban areas. 
Researchers believe bed bugs have roused from a halfcentury 
of hibernation for two reasons: 
the termination of the use of the pesticide DDT; and a rise in international travel. DDT, a 
powerful synthetic pesticide, was used widely in agriculture until a public outcry concerning its 
safety lead to a U.S.ban 
of the chemical in 1972, followed by international bans. Unbeknownst 
to the environmentalists of the time, these laws would permit future outbreaks to grow 
unchecked, which is precisely what happened when travel increased from countries where bed 
bugs were never subjugated, such as India. 
New York City and other hubs of international travel have hosted the bulk of the carnage. The 
bugs hitch rides from country to country in suitcases, and creep into hotel rooms where other 
guests are then exposed and unknowingly spread the parasites to movie theatres, cabs, buses, 
hospitals, houses, and everywhere in between. In New York City, bed bug reports increased 
800% from 2008 to 2009, a year in which the Department of Housing Preservation and 
Development received 13,152 bed bug infestation complaints. 
The unpleasantness of a typical rodent or insect extermination is largely the fee charged by the 
exterminator. But with bed bugs, this fee is just one piece of a greater nightmare. Because bed 
bugs are adept at hiding almost anywhere, an alarming quantity of possessions, from curtains to 
books and picture frames, must be discarded or quarantined. In one posh New York City rental 
tower, a tenant was 
forced to part with carpets, bedding, curtains, 20 cashmere sweaters, an Armani suit, a couch, a 
headboard, a night table, a bed frame, and an exercise bike, according to the New York Daily 
News. Other victims have had to throw away their books unless they were willing to inspect 
each one, page by page. Some possessions may be salvaged if they are sealed in special 
casing long enough for the bed bugs to die, which can takes several months. During this time, 
residents may be forced to move to temporary housing elsewhere. 
Fortunately, the health dangers posed by bed bugs seem to be limited to temporary skin 
irritation and inflammation, akin to mosquito bites. There are no known cases of disease 
transmission from bed bugs to humans, despite the fact that the parasites seem similar to other 
parasites that do transmit disease, such as fleas and ticks. Anaphylactic shock, however, may 
be experienced by a small percentage of the population, and measures should be taken to 
prevent bacterial infection of bitten areas. 
Adult bed bugs are flat, appleseed 
sized with rustycolored, 
oval bodies. Newly hatched bed 
bugs are semitransparent, 
light tan in color, and the size of a poppy seed. Yet, due to their 
elusive nature, their presence is usually discovered through peripheral clues rather than by 
seeing the bugs themselves. Some of these signs include fecal spots, blood smears, crushed 
bugs, or the itchy bumps that may result from bites. The bugs may be disturbed while feeding 
and leave a cluster of bumps, or they may bite in a row, marking the path of a blood vessel. The 
parasites emit a characteristic musty odor, although the smell is sometimes not present in even 
severe infestations. The bugs also emit a smell that is detectable by dogs, which has lead to the 
implementation of dogs in bed bug detection. Properly trained dogs can find bed bugs in wall 
voids, furniture gaps, and other places that humans may overlook and, in doing so, they focus 
on the area where exterminators must spray. 
It is best for bed bugs to be treated by pest management professionals (PMPs), not 
homeowners, as there is risk that an inexperienced person may spread the infestation further 
throughout the home. For instance, bug bombs will be ineffective and merely spread bed bugs. 
Even chemical sprays designed to kill bed bugs, if used by inexperienced homeowners, may 
make the infestation worse. PMPs can inspect for bed bugs in their immature stages of 
development, including their eggs, while homeowners cannot. In addition, prep work performed 
by a homeowner may make it difficult for the PMP to assess the extent of the infestation. 
The following tactics may be useful for temporary relief and confirmation of the presence of bed 
Spray cracks and crevices with an insecticide designed to control bed bugs. Follow the label's 
directions carefully. However, do not treat bedding, towels or clothing with insecticide. 
Homeowners can limit their chances of bed bug exposure by purchasing only new furniture, as 
stowaway bugs can hide in older or used chairs and mattresses. Hostels, hotels and motels 
host many travelers and are obvious breeding grounds for bed bugs, and many hostels ban 
sleeping bags for this reason. Unfortunately, persontoperson 
contact is difficult to avoid. 
In summary, bed bugs are a growing, serious threat. 
Venomous Pests 
Venomous pests are found virtually everywhere. For their safety, homeowners should learn how 
to identify venomous insects and reptiles. 
Bees and Wasps 
Bees and wasps are flying, stinging insects commonly found in and around homes throughout 
much of the world. Stings from these insects are normally not serious, except in people who are 
allergic to the venom, or when large numbers of the insects attack at once. Even when they are 
not a serious threat, bees and wasps can be a nuisance and a source of fear, especially during 
the summer months when people gather outside the home. 
Remove bed skirts, as they provide easy access for the bugs to travel from the floor to your bed. 
If you must have bed skirts, make sure they do not reach the floor. 
Move your bed away from the wall. Bed bugs cannot fly, but they can climb walls in order to fall 
onto the bed. 
Place furniture legs in tin cans coated with talcum powder, petroleum jelly or a nonevaporative 
liquid, to deter the bugs from climbing. 
Place a strip of duct tape at the base of furniture with the sticky side out. This tactic can be used 
to confirm the presence of bed bugs because it will trap them in place. 
A few facts about bees and wasps: 
o More than half of all fruit and vegetable crops are pollinated by honey bees. o Wasps 
contribute to the ecological cycle by preying on many insect pests that 
are harmful to crops. 
Bees vs. Wasps: While many homeowners refer to bees and wasps interchangeably, they are, 
in fact, different. Differentiation between these insects is important because different methods 
may be necessary to remove them if they become a nuisance. Bees and wasps differ in the 
following ways: 
Where do bees and wasps nest? 
o Bees and wasps prefer attics because they are warm and protected. They will find it 
easier to enter and infest an attic that is covered by slate or wood roofing as opposed to metal 
or asphalt shingles. Poor flashing may also allow easy entry. Homeowners entering attics with 
open (unscreened) gable vents should be on the lookout for a bee or wasp infestation. o 
Yellowjackets typically nest underground using existing hollows. Occasionally, nests can 
be found in dark, enclosed areas in a building, such as crawlspaces, wall voids and attics. Nests 
are enclosed in a paperlike 
envelope, but they are rarely exposed or observed unless 
excavated. The nest entrance is small and inconspicuous. Colonies are readily defended 
because yellowjackets will sting when the nest area is disturbed. o Hornets produce large, 
conspicuous grayish paperlike 
nests in trees and shrubs and 
beneath building eaves. o Paper wasps will nest in small cavities in the sides of buildings, 
within metal gutters and 
poles, outdoor grills, and similar items. o Honeybees, unlike wasps and other types of bees, 
produce a persistent, perennial 
colony. These hives can grow very large, containing tens of thousands of bees, and are usually 
found outdoors, especially on trees. Hives that are discovered inside buildings must be 
eliminated as soon as possible. If allowed to develop, large amounts of wax and honey will be 
produced, which may damage the building when the hive dies out or when the combs melt due 
to excessive heat. Rodents and insects will also be attracted to such sites. o Bumblebee nests 
are commonly constructed in abandoned rodent burrows, and they may also be found indoors in 
small hollow spaces, particularly if insulating debris is available. 
Nest control: Nests should be destroyed if they are close enough to humans to pose a stinging 
threat. They should always be approached with caution, preferably at night when most of the 
"workers" are present but reluctant to fly. A few additional tips: 
o Be aware that bees and wasps are attracted to lights, especially flashlights carried by 
homeowners as they enter dark attics and crawlspaces. 
o Bees feed solely on pollen. Wasps, by contrast, are predatory and feed mostly on 
insects. Some common bees include honeybees, carpenter bees and bumblebees. Some 
common wasps are yellowjackets, hornets and paper wasps. Yellowjackets and hornets can 
look virtually identical, although hornets usually have larger heads. o While bees have robust, 
hairy bodies with flat rear legs, wasps' bodies are slender with 
narrow waists connecting the thorax and abdomen. Wasps appear smooth and shiny and have 
slender legs shaped like cylinders. o Wasps, especially yellowjackets, are generally more 
aggressive than bees and they are more likely to come into contact with humans while in search 
of food. Wasps can become a nuisance in the warmer months because they often disrupt 
outdoor activities where meats and sweet liquids are present. A flying insect that repeatedly 
lands on a hot dog at a picnic or circles a dumpster is almost certainly not a bee. o Stinging 
wasps can sting repeatedly, while honeybees will die shortly after stinging once. 
Other bees, however, can sting repeatedly. 
o Use extreme caution when performing bee or wasp control from a ladder. o If a nest is not 
discovered until fall, pest control may be unnecessary, as imminent 
freezing temperatures will kill the colony. o If there is direct access to the nest, a fastacting 
dust or wettable powder formulation 
can be applied. If the nest must be removed during the daytime, a can of aerosol insect killer 
can be used to keep the bees or wasps at bay. Heavy clothing should be worn for added 
Rattlesnakes, copperheads, and other snakes often reside in crawlspaces with dirt floors and in 
a home’s landscaping and drainage. Snakes are easily startled and may react aggressively 
toward intruders. The following snakes may be encountered by homeowners: 
Bull snakes are large, nonvenomous 
snakes common in the central parts of the U.S., northern 
Mexico, and southern Canada. They are usually yellow in color, with brown, black or reddishcolored 
blotching. Due to its patterns and semikeeled 
scalation, the bull snake is often 
mistaken for the Western Diamondback rattlesnake. The bull snake capitalizes on this similarity 
by performing an impressive rattlesnake impression when threatened; the snake can produce a 
convincing “rattle” sound, and flatten its head to appear more characteristically triangular. Their 
mimicry is so impressive that it is frequently the bull snake's undoing when discovered by 
Copperheads are fairly large, venomous snakes with broad, triangular heads, vertically elliptical 
pupils, and heatsensitive 
pits between each eye and nostril. The body is tan to brown, with dark 
crossbands down the length of the body. Small dark spots are common 
between crossbands on the back. The unpatterned head is dull orange, copper or rustyred. 
When young, a copperhead has a yellowtipped 
tail. The head is solid brown, and there are two 
tiny dots in the center of the top of the head. Copperheads are quite tolerant of habitat alteration 
and remain common in suburban areas of many large cities. They can be found throughout the 
eastern and central United States but are absent from most of Florida and southcentral 
Georgia. Copperhead bites can be painful, although the symptoms are generally not as severe 
as bites from rattlesnakes. 
Coral snakes possess the most potent venom of any North American snakes, and they can be 
found in a number of southern states from North Carolina to Texas, although they account for 
less than 1% of venomous snake bites in the U.S. There are several reasons they don't claim 
more human victims they 
have short fangs that have difficulty penetrating clothing, they are 
more reclusive than most other snakes, and they typically inject only a relatively small quantity 
of venom when they bite. Any skin penetration, however, is a medical emergency that requires 
immediate attention. Coral snakes have a powerful neurotoxic venom that paralyzes the 
breathing muscles. 
The following symptoms are characteristic of coral snake envenomation: 
o nausea; o drowsiness; o vomiting; 
o excessive salivation; o difficulty breathing; and o paralysis. 
It is important to note that coral snake bites do not result in significant swelling, discoloration or 
pain, and the effects of the venom may take hours to develop. 
Identification: Physically, coral snakes are anomalies among North American venomous snakes. 
Unlike rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and copperheads, coral snakes are not pit vipers. Thus, they 
lack the characteristic pit viper's triangular head and verticallyoriented 
eyes, and they are quite 
small, shy, and may appear harmless. Fortunately, they can be easily identified by their 
distinctive red, yellow and black color pattern. The sequence of these colors redyellowblack 
critical for identification, as other snakes perform a successful mimicry except in this one 
aspect. The harmless milk snake, for instance, would appear almost identical if its color pattern 
were not redblackyellow. 
A useful way to remember this distinction is: "Red touch yellow, kill a 
fellow. Red touch black, poison lack." 
Garter snakes are harmless and can be found everywhere from Canada to Central America. 
Most garter snakes are striped or banded lengthwise, and some are spotted between the 
stripes. They are found in moist environments, and most varieties are roughly 2 feet long. 
Rattlesnakes are the most dangerous venomous snakes in North America. They bite thousands 
of people annually, although very few bites are fatal. The rattlesnake is easily distinguished by a 
rattle at the end of its tail, which is composed of a series of dried, hollow segments of skin, 
which, when shaken, make a rattling sound. When the snake is alarmed, it shakes its tail, and 
the noise serves as a warning to the attacker. While most rattlesnakes are concentrated in the 
southwestern United States, they extend north, east and south in diminishing numbers and 
varieties. Every contiguous state has one or more varieties of rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes can be 
identified in the following ways: 
typically, rattlesnakes range from 3 to 4 feet in length. Eastern Diamondback rattlesnakes can 
be significantly longer, however sometimes 
in excess of 7 feet. 
Symptoms of rattlesnake bites include: 
broad, triangular head; 
eyes have vertical "catlike" 
scales are keeled (having a raised center ridge); 
body appears heavy or fat in the middle; 
large tubular fangs that fold out when the mouth opens; 
blunt tail with rattle, although baby rattlesnakes don't have rattles, and some adult snakes may 
break or lose their rattles; and 
pain and swelling in the area surrounding the bite, which may take several hours to develop; 
rapid pulse and labored breathing; 
progressive, general weakness; 
Bull snakes lay eggs, while rattlesnakes give birth to live offspring. 
Most spiders pose no threat to humans. In fact, of the 20,000 species of spiders that inhabit the 
Americas, only 60 are capable of biting humans. Within that small group, only a handful of 
species is known to be dangerous to humans. Of these, only the brown recluse and the black 
widow have ever been associated with significant harm and rare reports of death. Tarantula 
bites, despite common fears, are not significantly more dangerous to humans than wasp stings. 
drowsiness and unconsciousness. 
The following tips can help differentiate bull snakes from rattlesnakes: 
Black widow spiders are perhaps the most venomous spiders in North America. 
o Identification: The female black widow is normally shiny black, with a red hourglassshaped 
marking on the underside of the abdomen. The abdominal marking may range in color 
from yellowishorange 
to red, and its shape may range from an hourglass to a dot. In a few 
widow spiders, however, no pattern is obvious on the abdomen. The body of an adult black 
widow female is about 1/2inch 
long, while the male widow spiders are smaller. They usually are 
not black in overall color, and instead appear light brown or gray and banded. Male widows may 
have an hourglass pattern, but coloration often is more orange and sometimes yellow. Widow 
spiders build loose and irregular meshtype 
webs, often on plants, in loose stone and wood 
piles, and in the corners of rooms, 
Bull snakes have no rattler. When threatened, they will often forcefully vibrate their tails, which 
serves as a warning to potential predators. In dry leaves and grass, this will produce a sound 
that is quite similar to one emitted by a rattlesnake. Another related indicator is that bull snakes 
will keep their tails low to the ground while producing their rattling sound, while most 
rattlesnakes will elevate their tail while rattling. 
Although the two often have similar patterns, bull snakes are generally cream or pale yellow in 
color with brown or black markings; rattlesnakes, on the other hand, are typically much darker, 
depending upon the subspecies. 
The body of a bull snake is more streamlined than that of a rattlesnake. A bull snake is 
noticeably thinner and its body becomes proportionately narrower down to its tail, which ends at 
a defined point. A rattlesnake looks thicker, particularly in its midsection, 
with a more rounded 
tail due to its rattle. 
The head of a bull snake is nearly identical in size to the upper portion of its body. The head of a 
rattlesnake, however, is more triangular in shape and is perceptibly wider than its upper body. 
Bull snakes' pupils are circular, while those of rattlesnakes are verticallyoriented. 
All venomous 
snakes in North America have verticallyoriented 
pupils, except for the coral snake. 
visual impairment; 
nausea and vomiting; 
seizures; and 
garages and outbuildings. They do not produce the symmetrical web typical of orbweaving 
spiders or the distinctive funnelshaped 
pattern of funnel weaver spiders. 
o Symptoms of a bite: While the area around the bite may result in swelling, the venom is 
primarily a neurotoxin, which does not cause significant localized tissue death. Rather, the 
venom and other neurotoxins affect the nervous system of the afflicted animal. Without medical 
attention, the symptoms of a black widow bite can last for days, and a complete recovery may 
take weeks. 
Black widow bites commonly cause the following symptoms: 
. painful rigidity in the muscles of the abdomen; 
. tightness in the chest accompanied by labored breathing; 
. elevated blood pressure; 
. elevated body temperature; 
. nausea; and 
. sweating. 
Death is uncommon (less than 1% of the reported cases), but in the elderly and very young, 
death may occur from asphyxia. Seek medical attention if you suspect you have been bitten. 
o Habitat: Black widow spiders and their relatives can be found almost anywhere in the 
Western hemisphere in damp and dark places. The spider prefers the following exterior 
environments: wood piles, rubble piles, under stones, in hollow stumps, and in rodent burrows, 
sheds and garages. Indoors, they are found in undisturbed, cluttered areas in basements and 
Brown Recluse: Along with the black widow, the brown recluse is potentially the most 
dangerous spider in North America. Despite their reclusive habits, they do occasionally bite 
humans. Recluses typically bite when they are trapped between flesh and another surface, as 
when a sleeping human rolls over on a prowling spider, or when a person is putting on clothing 
or shoes containing the spider. 
Identification: The brown recluse is usually between 1/4inch 
to 3/4inch 
but may grow larger. 
They are notable for the characteristic violinshaped 
pattern on the back of their cephalothorax 
body part to which the legs are attached. These spiders are not aggressive and bite only 
when threatened, usually when pressed up against the victim's skin. They seek out dark, warm, 
dry environments such as attics, closets, porches, barns, basements, wood piles and old tires. 
Symptoms of bite: 
. severe pain at the bite site after about four hours; 
. severe itching; 
. nausea; 
. vomiting; 
. fever; 
. muscle pain; and 
. potentially severe localized tissue damage. 
Symptoms of bite: 
o immediate redness, which develops around the bite; o after 24 hours, the bite develops into a 
blister, and after 24 to 36 hours, the blister 
breaks open, leaving an open, oozing ulceration; o severe headache; o temporary memory 
loss; o impairment of vision; o nausea; and o weakness. 
Preventing Spider Infestation 
The Master Inspector Certification Board believes that spiders can be discouraged from entering 
the home by increasing the lighting in darkened corners, such as by appropriate furniture 
arrangement and the use of artificial lighting. Insecticides should be applied in dark, undisturbed 
areas where spiders are likely to produce webs. Insecticides can also be used to prevent spider 
migrations into homes by spraying around the exterior foundation and lowerstory 
Preventative spraying should be performed before temperatures get low since, by this point, 
spiders and other insects may have already entered the house. The insecticide chlorpyrifos 
(Dursban®) is the most widely available product for the control of spiders around a home. 
Chlorpyrifos has a residual effectiveness of several weeks, particularly if not exposed to light 
and moisture. However, it is moderately toxic to humans. 
In summary, there are many kinds of venomous pests that homeowners may encounter in and 
around their homes, and knowing what they are and the hazards they pose can help 
homeowners act with appropriate caution. 
Snow Guards 
Snow guards are protruding metal or plastic devices (or lengths of bars) that are installed in 
intermittent locations on a roof that are intended to prevent accumulated snow and ice from 
sliding in great sheets off the roof. They encourage the gradual melt and breakdown of the snow 
mass into smaller sections. They vary in their method of attachment to the roof, as well as their 
color (they usually match the roof or are transparent), and their material (typically, they're made 
of metal or polycarbonate). 
Hobo Spider: This spider is not native to the U.S., but by the mid1960s, 
it had become 
established in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, as well as British Columbia in Canada. The 
current population distribution also places it also in Montana, northern Utah, and western 
Wyoming. Although the bite of the hobo spider is initially painless, it can be serious. Hobo 
spiders are often confused with wolf spiders, which produce a painful but relatively harmless 
bite. If serious symptoms develop, the victim should seek medical attention. 
Snow and ice are surprisingly heavy a 
single cubic foot of ice weighs more than 52 pounds and 
when they avalanche down off a roof, they can cause a great deal of property damage and 
even injury. Roof avalanches can injure pedestrians and livestock, bend gutters, and damage 
vehicles, lower roofs, HVAC equipment, and other property below. This typically happens when 
warm weather follows a snowstorm, creating melt water that lubricates the roof. 
In many cases, snow guard systems are not included during initial roof installations because of 
the additional cost and the general lack of awareness of their need. Nevertheless, homeowners 
can be held liable for any property damage and personal injury resulting from excessive snow if 
it could have been prevented with snowretention 
systems. Investing in the right 
system may mitigate liability, prevent property damage, and reduce threats 
to pedestrian safety. 
Snow guards are not always effective or helpful, however. In very heavy snow, they may not be 
tall enough to resist the snow's downward force, and shingle roofs typically have enough 
resistance to hold the snow naturally. To act as effective restraints, snow guards should be 
installed by qualified roofers who can competently consider factors such as sheathing type and 
thicknesses, roof type, roof slope, and snow loads in determining proper snow guard sizing, 
design and placement. Homeowners and handymen who attempt snow guard installation may 
install them in an improper pattern, or only weakly attach them to the roof, which may actually 
increase the potential damage due to falling snow and ice. Also, snow guards should never be 
used as anchors in fallarrest 
systems, as they are not strong enough to support roof workers, 
and the guards themselves may be damaged. 
Snow guard placement should be consistent with the following safety and efficiency standards: 
Only adhesive should be used to mount snow guards to standingseam, 
roofs, as 
this technique allows for thermal expansion and contraction of the panels. It also allows for 
quick release during extreme snow accumulation that might otherwise damage the panels. 
In summary, snow guards are devices that attach to the roof in order to hold snow and ice in 
place so they can melt slowly and safely. 
Snow guards should be mounted on the lowest portion of a roofing panel where the snow and 
ice actually move. Snow guards mounted on a high seam will be ineffective when the snow and 
ice compact beneath them. 
Snow guards should not be mounted beyond the bearing wall on an extended roof section, as 
this placement can result in ice damming and roof damage. 
Snow guards should be installed over sidewalks, doorways, driveways, and anywhere else that 
people are likely to walk or gather, or where personal property is stored. 
Check the mounting tape, if it is present. Tape has very little or no resistance to ultraviolet light 
and tends to roll up underneath the snow guard when exposed to shear loads. 
There should not be more snow guards installed than necessary, as they might allow too much 
snow to accumulate and damage the roof. Snow guards should be installed in the critical areas 
listed here, but not necessarily in areas where snow and ice can be released safely onto the 
ground by gravity and natural warming. 
Defensible Space 
Defensible space refers to the area surrounding a building that is mitigated to protect it from 
wildfires. Along with the quality of a building’s roofing material, adequate defensible space is 
one of the most important factors in determining a building’s ability to survive a wildfire. 
Defensible space performs the following functions: 
1. Ideally, a carefully maintained 
defensible space will not contain enough fuel to allow a wildfire to reach a house. Even if the 
space is breached, the fire will have been slowed and weakened, helping firefighters to defend 
the house. 2. A defensible space provides an 
accessible area for fire trucks to park and firefighters to work during a structure fire. 3. If there is 
a pond near a burning 
house, it can be used to replenish a fire truck’s water supply. The perimeter of the pond should 
be thinned of trees and brush sufficiently so that firefighters can access it. 
The size requirements for defensible space vary by jurisdiction because the potential for 
wildfires varies by region. Buildings in forested areas of the Southwest need a much larger 
protective space than in New Jersey, for instance. As of 2006, California state law mandates a 
minimum of 100 feet of defensible space for houses in rural locations. Trees and shrubs 
surrounding a house should be trimmed and spaced a safe distance apart from one another. 
Chainsaws can be used to remove trees and branches, pruning shears can be used to trim 
plants, and rakes can be used for removing pine needles and other groundlevel 
Trees that are very close to the house should be removed because this is where fireprevention 
is most critical. Vegetation can be plentiful toward the perimeter of the space if it is green and 
Colorado State University divides defensible space into three categories in the following 
Zone 1: The first 15 feet from a home should be devoid of all flammable vegetation. Firewood 
and other flammable materials should not be stored in this region. 
Zone 2: This area of fuel reduction should extend from Zone 1 outward to between 75 to 125 
feet from the structure. Trees and large shrubs should be no less than 10 feet apart, especially 
in steep terrain. Trees must also be pruned to a height of 10 feet from the ground, and any 
“ladder fuels” vegetation 
with vertical continuity – should be removed from the base of the 
trees. Grass, trees and shrubs in this region should be green and adequately spaced. Pine 
needles, dead leaves, branches, dead and dying vegetation, and other flammable debris on the 
ground should be removed whenever they appear. 
Zone 3: This region of traditional forest management is of no particular size, although it normally 
extends to the property limits. More trees are permitted here than in Zone 2, although their 
health and vigor should be maintained. 
Tips for Homeowners: 
Vegetation removal can cause soil erosion, especially in steep terrain. The Master Inspector 
Certification Board advises that in areas that are prone to wildfire and soil erosion, it can be 
helpful to replace highly flammable plants and trees with lessflammable 
In summary, homes and outbuildings can be spared from wildfire damage through the removal 
of surrounding flammable vegetation. Defensible spaces are critical in hot, dry, forested regions, 
although their implementation is recommended everywhere. 
Emergency Preparedness 
Whether you're facing rising floodwaters or a wildfire that’s too close for comfort, many 
homeowners confront seasonal threats to their safety that force them to flee their properties, at 
least temporarily. In the last few years alone, damage created by severe weather and natural 
disasters in the U.S. has reached the tens of billions of dollars, as well as caused hundreds of 
Here are some tips everyone can use to make a strategic retreat, as well as ways that 
homeowners can both prepare for an emergency and assess any property damage upon their 
return home. 
Evacuating in the event of an emergency is often difficult under the best of circumstances. 
Sometimes, we may receive ample warning to prepare, but many dangers are unpredictable. 
Given the emotional stress and panic that can compromise decisionmaking 
abilities in the 
moment, an important aspect to consider is whether the emergency is localized or widespread. 
An emergency such as a ruptured gas pipe, a chemical spill from a nearby truck or train 
accident, or a home fire suggests that help is just beyond the immediate zone of danger and the 
evacuation will be temporary, from just a few hours to one or two nights. All families should 
devise a Family Evacuation Plan that includes a location outside the home where family 
members can meet. 
Homeowners should obey all environmental protection laws while creating and maintaining 
defensible spaces. In particular, removal of vegetation should not interfere with the wellbeing 
endangered species, air quality, water quality, or archaeologically significant resources. 
Homeowners may need to obtain a permit to cut down trees over a certain size, depending on 
the local jurisdiction. 
But a larger disaster, such as the aforementioned flood or wildfire, or an earthquake, hurricane 
or tornado tends to affect a wider area and may compromise or fully disable public utilities, 
including communications, electricity, water and sewer. Roads within the danger zone may be 
blocked or difficult to travel, and emergency personnel may encounter problems reaching those 
who need assistance. 
Regardless of the type of disaster, there are many things you can do to mitigate potential 
property damage and make for a secure departure, should the time come, especially given 
some warning to evacuate safely. And, upon returning home, we’d all like the shock to be 
minimized as much as possible. 
To help you get organized before an emergency, we’ve broken down these common concerns 
into three categories: 
Homeowners should take certain measures to ensure their personal safety when they need to 
leave their homes for an unknown period of time. Make sure that you watch or listen to TV or 
radio for local news and broadcasts by the Emergency Alert System to stay advised of the latest 
weather or other conditions, as well as to find out what local emergency management 
recommends, including the location of public shelters. 
Here’s a list of things to pack that will help relieve the lastminute 
panic of leaving home in a 
hurry. This list may vary for each person, but the items are generally based on these priorities: 
vs. longterm 
evacuation, and what you’ll need while you’re away, as well as what 
you shouldn’t leave behind while you’re gone: 
personal health and safety; 
home security; and 
an allpurpose, 
waterproof first aid and emergency kit that includes hand sanitizer, a flashlight, a 
radio with batteries, and matches; 
glasses, hearing aids, and prescription medications for all family members; 
supplies for pets, including carriers, leashes, plastic or collapsible/campingtype 
water bowls, 
food and medication; 
a kit of personal toiletries for each family member that’s ready to grab and go; 
a change of clothes, including undergarments, footwear and outerwear; 
sleeping bags and MylarTM camping blankets; 
personal paperwork in waterproof pouches, including irreplaceable or hardtoreplace 
documents, such as: 
o drivers' licenses and other ID; o birth certificates; o Social Security cards; 
a basic toolkit that includes work gloves, pliers, an adjustable wrench, a hacksaw, and other 
tools to fix a flat tire, turn off and on household utility shutoff 
valves, pry open a damaged door, 
and cut through tree branches that may be blocking a road. 
An expanded emergency supply list can include the following items: 
other supplies that can aid in daily routines if temporary accommodations are too difficult to 
reach or overcrowded. 
These items can help a family be selfsufficient 
while temporary accommodations and plans for 
returning home are sorted out. With the exception of medications and electronics that are used 
every day, most of the items can be stored in a central location, such as a coat closet or garage 
cupboard, or already loaded in your vehicle. 
Other Considerations 
For residents with special needs, such as infants, the elderly, and those with mobility issues, an 
emergency evacuation plan is essential because the time needed to leave is greater, and the 
list of personal items is often specialized. For example, a lightweight, collapsible wheelchair may 
be a more practical option for shortterm 
use for someone who is wheelchairbound. 
A person 
who relies on 
contact information for relatives, friends and neighbors, as well as local shelters, including the 
Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which may be directing 
disaster relief activities in your area; 
cash and credit cards; 
personal electronics, including cell phones and chargers; 
irreplaceable personal effects, such as albums of photos that haven’t been digitally preserved; 
enough snacks, including special food items such infant formula, and nonperishables, 
with a can opener (if needed), to last until reaching alternative housing and supplies; 
water. If the emergency may be extended, FEMA recommends a threeday 
supply of one gallon 
per person per day, to be used for both drinking and sanitation; 
plastic bags, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and other items for personal sanitation and hygiene; and 
a gallon of bleach to be used as a disinfectant and to purify drinking water, if necessary. Adding 
16 drops of plain household chlorine bleach to a gallon of water will make the water potable; 
a gasolinepowered 
portable generator, along with extra gasoline; 
a portable fire extinguisher; 
portable lanterns and flashlights; 
a camping toilet; 
a portable cook stove and mess kits; 
face masks for every family member; 
plastic sheeting or tarps, duct tape and scissors to create a “shelter in place,” if a more secure 
shelter cannot be accessed in time. These can also be used to create a barrier from flying 
debris if it is not safe to leave and you must take refuge in your home; and 
o passports; o insurance policies, and other banking, business and legal cards and documents; 
oxygen may be able to invest in a portable, backpacktype 
supply. Those who wear hearing aids 
should keep extra batteries in their toiletries kit. 
In all cases, emergency personnel and first responders should be notified as soon as possible 
regarding the location of atrisk 
and elderly residents whose mobility may be compromised so 
that they can receive the additional assistance they need to make a safe getaway. 
The BList 
If a forced evacuation is predicted to be longterm 
and residents are afforded extra time to pack 
more than just the essentials, some homeowners may opt to pack items that have special 
sentimental or luxury value, such as heirlooms, jewelry, artwork, and other prized possessions. 
Like most lists, this “Blist” 
should be made well in advance, including how such items can be 
packed into your vehicle while leaving room for occupants and emergency essentials, or even 
stored offsite 
at a secure location. 
On a regular basis, homeowners should make sure that their property's drainage is 
unobstructed, including gutters, downspouts and drainfields. Tree limbs should be trimmed back 
so that they don't break off and damage the roof or become entangled in nearby power lines 
during a storm. Shingles and chimneys should be in good repair, with no loose elements that 
can become dangerous projectiles in high winds. Homeowners living in wildfireprone 
should maintain an adequate defensible space around their properties. 
In addition to learning about the maintenance of their homes, homeowners should also take 
inventory of potential hazards within the home that can compromise personal safety, such as 
light fixtures, windows and shelf units. Things such as these can become unsteady or damaged 
and cause serious injury while a family takes shelter indoors during a severe storm or 
If you’re not familiar with the locations of your shutoff 
valves and how to operate them, it’s 
critical for you to schedule an inspection with your Certified Master Inspector®, who can walk 
you through these essential steps so that, when the time comes, you can act confidently and 
Shutting Off Utilities 
If you have time, prior to shutting off the utilities to your home, turn off all of your household 
appliances and unplug them. If you do not turn off the electrical service at the panel, your 
appliances will still draw current and create potential hazards in an already unstable 
Electricity: The method for disconnecting your electrical service depends on the age of your 
home and the type of system it has. Most homes have circuit breakers, but 
Water: Each sink, commode and watersupplied 
appliance has its own shutoff 
valve. If you 
have time and depending on the type of emergency, shutting off the water to these appliances 
may prevent accidental flooding of the home. If you find it necessary to shut off the home’s 
water supply, make sure you know where the valve is located. Typically, it’s in an area of the 
home or garage that’s nearest the exterior valve at the meter. Similar to the gas shutoff 
those with a bladetype 
valve are aligned with the pipe when turned on, and turning it a 
will shut the water off. 
Lock Your Doors and Windows 
Secure the home’s window and door locks to prevent unwanted entry by intruders during a time 
of crisis. This includes all exterior doors and doors leading from an attached garage to the 
home, as well as yard gates and all outbuildings. During a tornado, some homes may become 
overly pressurized unless some windows are left open a crack. In hurricaneprone 
windows may need to be boarded up. Use your judgment and the recommendations of local 
experts based on the type of emergency. 
Other Security Issues 
Ranchers and farmers have their own particular concerns because of livestock, as well as 
additional buildings and equipment to secure. Likewise, commercial property owners and 
managers of multiunit 
housing have their own unique priorities that should be addressed ahead 
of time with employees and 
some older homes have fuses. Locate your main panel and open the door, called the dead 
front. For a fuse panel, you should find a knifeswitch 
handle or pullout fuse clearly marked 
“main.” For a circuit breaker panel, there should be one switch marked “main,” with directions 
marked “on” and “off.” If you have more than one panel, it’s a good idea to turn off the switches 
or remove the fuses at the subpanels 
because current can sometimes bypass the main breaker 
or fuse. 
Gas: Each of your gasfueled 
appliances, such as your water heater and stove, should have its 
own shutoff 
valve. The service for your home is located outside at your gas meter. It may be 
exposed, it may be in a box underground, or it may be in an aboveground 
cabinet. Make sure 
that you have easy access to it (especially if it is a locked box), and make sure you know which 
service is yours if you live in multifamily 
housing. The shutoff 
valve itself generally runs parallel 
to the pipe that extends from the ground to the meter. Turning this valve 90 degrees in either 
direction so that the valve is crosswise to the pipe will shut off the gas supply. 
If you suspect a leak, do not ignite any fire source (candle, cigarette, etc.) or turn on or off any 
electrical switches nearby, including lights, as even a minor spark can cause an explosion. 
Make sure that the service is safe to turn back on when you return home. 
tenants in an emergency evacuation plan. Fire marshals generally require that signage for the 
emergency escape route, of specified dimensions for easy visibility, be posted in a common 
location. Such signage is typically located near fire pull alarms and fire extinguishers. All 
residents and employees should concentrate on safe evacuation and leave security of the 
property to those charged with such responsibilities. 
Being let back onto one’s property after a disaster or emergency can be an emotional time, so 
it’s important to allow emergency personnel and first responders to do their jobs and to follow 
their instructions. Generally, unless you can turn on all of your utilities again, your access may 
be limited, but it depends on your municipality and the scope of the damage. You may be 
instructed to boil your water for a brief period of time while governmental agencies confirm that 
it’s potable and safe without treatment. 
Before you reenter 
your property, check the exterior. 
Check the exterior. 
It’s always best to document damage from the ground and contact your Certified Master 
Inspector®, who can make a more indepth 
and detailed inspection. Even after you contact your 
insurance carrier, an unbiased inspection by a trained home inspector may reveal issues that 
are not immediately apparent, such as hail damage, which requires some expertise to properly 
identify, especially if the insurance investigator must inspect damage incurred by multiple clients 
in the aftermath of a widespread emergency. 
Check the interior. 
Make sure that there are no downed power lines on or near your property. If there are, do not 
attempt to move them yourself; immediately contact utility company personnel or law 
Check for broken tree branches that may impede your access to your property, or which 
themselves may be in contact with power lines; again, enlist help in such situations to avoid a 
potentially fatal injury. 
Make sure the perimeter of your property is secure before allowing pets back onto the property. 
Natural disasters can be disorienting for them, and they may try to escape. 
Check any damage to windows and exterior doors, as well as the roof, chimney and other 
penetrations, but do so safely. You may defer this to your Certified Master Inspector®. 
Check gutters, downspouts and exterior drainage for blockages, and clear them as soon as it's 
possible to do so safely. 
Before turning on the water and gas service to the home, check the individual appliances to 
make sure that they’re undamaged. Document all damage, and contact utility personnel if you 
don’t feel safe turning the fuel or water back on yourself. If there is no apparent damage or 
telltale smells or sounds (such as hissing) emanating from any appliances, it should be safe to 
turn on the gas and water at their shutoff 
valves. Make the same damage assessment before 
turning the electricity back on, too. 
In the aftermath of a storm or flood, check the basement, crawlspace and attic areas for 
moisture intrusion, as well as areas at window sills and exterior doors. Unchecked moisture can 
lead to mold problems and structural issues down the road. Have your Certified Master 
Inspector® survey your home with an infrared camera, which can identify areas of moisture 
intrusion and energy loss that may not be visible to the naked eye. 
Check in with neighbors and others. 
Notify pet owners or Animal Control if you see disoriented domestic pets searching for their 
owners or homes. Also, avoid contact with wildlife that may have been forced from their natural 
habitat. Report their location to Animal Control. 
Those of us untouched by disaster sometimes daydream about what we would grab if we had 
only moments to spare. The fact is, there is no bad time to actually make that list and prepare 
those plans. Talk with your entire family about what to do in an emergency. By making practical 
preparations and involving all family members, chances are that when disaster strikes, you’ll feel 
less panicked and more in control to guide your family in a safe and orderly evacuation. They'll 
know what to expect, too (as much as possible), and that will lessen their fear, which is 
especially important for keeping calm and acting quickly. Schedule a meeting with your Certified 
Master Inspector® to help you devise a checklist to prepare your house in the event of an 
emergency, and to assess its condition afterward to make sure it’s safe for you to reoccupy. 
or she can also help you get started on an action plan for repairs. And don't forget to replenish 
your emergency supply kits so that you can be prepared the next time, too. 
The CMI Big Survival List for Ultimate SelfSufficiency 
There was a time when citizens were encouraged to build bomb shelters in their backyards for 
nearly unimaginable worstcase 
scenarios, such as a foreign invasion or nuclear fallout. While 
U.S. national security has been reinforced to unprecedented levels, not every contingency can 
be met by third parties. 
The following list represents the items a family will need to be truly selfsufficient 
if the grid goes 
down and public services and utilities are disabled for three months or longer. The list is long 
and comprehensive, and all the items will take time to assemble, so consider getting started 
Securely dispose of perishable food items left in the refrigerator during a power outage. Ensure 
that stray animals foraging for food can’t access it. Some food left in the freezer may be 
salvageable, but always err on the side of caution to avoid serious illness caused by bacteria. 
Go back through your home to check for structural damage, including broken glass. 
and elderly neighbors should be accounted for. 
o Gardening books o Baking and cookbooks o Manuals for butchering livestock and game o 
Cookbooks for cooking with stored food o Homeopathy books 
o Hats (baseball cap for sun protection, and wool cap/balaclava for warmth) o Socks o Boots & 
other footwear 
. Spare laces o Work gloves o Overalls o Coats o Rubber boots o Rain suit or 
poncho o Clothes pins (for airdrying 
clothes) o Sewing kit o Sewing awl o Treadle sewing 
machine o Wash tubs o Laundry tongs o Hand washer/wringer for laundry o Diapers o Diaper 
pins o Antique iron (that can be used without power) 
o Cell phone charger (car) o Walkietalkies 
(MURS band) o Twoway 
radios o CB radio o 
Weather radio (handcranked) 
o Whistle 
o Cash o Silver o Gold o Jewelry o Wine, beer & spirits 
. Ammunition 
. Guncleaning 
. Cotton gloves o Knives o Nightvision 
scope and gear o Fully opaque 
blackout curtains o Earthtone 
or camouflage clothing o Green and brown dye o Locks o 
Detection systems 
o Food preservation books o Firstaid 
manuals o Pens and paper 
o Playing cards o Board games and toys for young children o Harmonica and other acoustic 
musical instruments o Coloring books and crayons 
o Energy bars o MREs (Meals, ReadytoEat) 
o Canned goods o Wheat (hard red) o Rice (white 
rice stores longer than brown, but has fewer nutrients) o Dried beans o Dried lentils o Oatmeal o 
Corn (wholekernel) 
o Peanut butter and other nut butters o Dried fruit o Honey (liquid/pure 
stores the longest) o Sugar o Canned sardines, tuna, salmon o Cooking oil o Olive oil o Nuts o 
Powdered milk o Vinegar o Salt (large supply) o Baking soda o Nitrogenpacked 
food o 
food o Ground coffee o Smoker o Food bags o Fishing gear 
. Fishing nets 
. Fishing lines 
. Sinkers 
. Hooks o Bow & arrows 
. Bow strings (spares) o Snare wire (stainless steel) o Hunting rifle & shotgun 
. Ammunition 
. Guncleaning 
. Cotton gloves 
o Alarms o Camera systems o Camouflage face vale o Jobsite boxes (“Vicki boxes”) to cache 
preparedness goods 
o Propane cylinders o Gasoline o Diesel o Kerosene o Storage tanks o Siphoning tube o Motor 
oil o Generator (trifuel) 
o Coal 
. Ear protection 
. Eye protection 
. Rifle scope o Boar spear o Meat grinder (handcranked) 
o Meat saw o Skinning 
knife o Gambrel o Garden seeds (nonhybrid, 
o Sprouts o Gardening tools o 
Grain grinder (handoperated) 
. Spare set of coarse burrs for grain grinder 
. Mortar and pestle o Aluminum foil o Refrigeration: 
. Cooler o Food preparation items: 
. Stainless steel bowl 
. Large skillet 
. Large stew pot 
. Mess kits 
. Can opener 
. Knives 
. Cooking utensils 
. Eating utensils 
. Camp stove 
. Dutch oven 
. Coffee pot (French press, reusable filter with holder) 
. Bay leaves 
. Dehydrator 
. Canning supplies 
. Mixing bowl 
. Wire whisk 
. Muffin tin o Vitamins o Baby food o Pet food and bowls 
o Wool blankets o Bedrolls o Pocket lighters o Matches (waterproof) o Fire steels o Fresnel 
magnifying lens o Hexamine fuel tablets o Sleeping bags o Insulated pads (to sleep on) o 
Firewood (split) o Axe o Wedge o Splitting maul o Log splitter (manual) o Saw o Sawhorse o 
Sterno® o Woodburner 
. Fire extinguisher 
o Toilet paper o Soap (Fels Naptha®) o Toothbrush 
. Toothpaste 
. Baking soda 
. Floss o Feminine hygiene products o Straight razor o Bucket toilet o Garbage bags 
o Powdered lime o Towels 
o Passport o Birth certificate o Driver’s license o Insurance policies o Deeds o Wills 
o Flashlight 
. Batteries o Candles (beeswax is best) 
o Photovoltaic power system o Photovoltaic battery charger o Rechargeable batteries o Inverter 
o Firstaid 
kit o Bandages o Gauze o Quickclot 
sponges o Rubbing alcohol (pure grain alcohol 
from the liquor store comes in a glass bottle and will 
last forever) o Tincture of iodine o Tincture of benzoin o Potassium iodate tablets (to prevent 
thyroid damage from nuclear fallout) o Cotton balls o EMT shears (stainless steel) o Burn 
treatment kit o Oil of cloves o Temporary dental filling kit 
. TempanolTM 
. CavitTM o Crutches o SAM® splint o Disinfectants o Witch Hazel o Hydrocortisone 
cream o Calamine lotion o Aloe vera gel o Grapefruit seed extract (nutribiotic, liquid) o Hot water 
o Spare prescription eyeglasses o Sunglasses o Birth control o Medical prescriptions o 
Sunscreen o Bug repellent 
o Tent o Tent seam tape o Plastic sheets o Tarp o Ground cloth o Folding/camp chairs o 
Folding/camp tables 
o Anvil o Duct tape 
o Lantern 
. Lantern oil (clear) 
. Lantern wicks 
o Snowshoes o Backpack o Compass o Jumper cables o Local maps o Snowmobile o ATV o 
Diesel pickup truck o Cart o Sled o Tire chains o GPS o Highlift 
jack o Transfer pump 
o Bottled water o Purifier o Canteen o Sodium hypochlorite bleach o Storage containers/barrels 
o Pickup 
truck water tank o Solar distiller o HTH dry chlorine 
o Multitool 
o Chainsaw o Binoculars o Cable ties o Tiedowns 
o Comealong 
o Sharpening 
stone o Chain o Rope o Wire o Buckets with turn lids o Nails o Radiacmeter (handheld 
counter) o N95 
respirator masks o Bolt cutters o Other handpowered 
tools o Shovels o Pulley 
o Paracord o Large adjustable wrench (to shut off gas and water service) 
Elderly Safety 
Aging in Place 
"Aging in place" is the phenomenon describing senior citizens' ability to live independently in 
their homes for as long as possible. Those who age in place will not have to move from their 
present residence in order to secure necessary support services in response to their changing 
The Baby Boomers 
As the baby boomers age, the 60+ population will spike from roughly 45 million in recent years 
to more than 70 million by 2020. Research shows that baby boomers’ expectations of how they 
will receive care differ from that of their parents’ generation. Overwhelmingly, they will seek care 
in their own homes and will be less likely to move into congregate living settings. 
Why do many senior citizens prefer to age in place? 
Nursing homes, to many, represent a loss of freedom and a reduced quality of life. Here are a 
few good reasons why these fears are justified: 
A significant percentage of nursing homes had deficiencies that caused immediate jeopardy or 
actual harm to patients. 
Your Certified Master Inspector® may recommend corrections and adaptations to the home to 
improve maneuverability, accessibility, and safety for elderly occupants. Some such alterations 
and recommendations for a home are as follows: 
1. microwave oven in wall or on counter; 2. refrigerator and freezer side by side; 3. sideswing 
wall oven; 4. controls that are easy to read; 5. raised washing machine and dryer; 6. 
washing machine; 7. raised dishwasher with pushbutton 
In 2007, inspectors received 37,150 complaints about conditions in nursing homes. Roughly 
of the complaints verified by federal and state authorities involved the abuse or neglect 
of patients. Specific problems included infected bedsores, medication mixups, 
poor nutrition, 
and other forms of neglect. 
The proportion of nursing homes cited for deficiencies ranged from 76% in Rhode Island to as 
high as 100% in Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington, D.C. 
Many cases have been exposed in which nursing homes billed Medicare and Medicaid for 
services that were not provided. 
8. stoves having electric cooktops with level burners for safely transferring between the burners; 
front controls and downdraft feature to pull heat away from user; light to indicate when surface is 
hot; and 9. replace old stoves with induction cooktops to help prevent burns. 
1. folddown 
seat installed in the shower; 2. adjustable showerheads with 6foot 
hose; 3. light in 
shower stall; 4. wall support, and provision for adjustable and/or variedheight 
counters and 
removable base 
cabinets; 5. contrasting color edge border at countertops; 6. at least one 
bath on main level; 7. bracing in walls around tub, shower, shower 
seat, and toilet for installation of grab bars; 8. if standup 
shower is used in main bath, it is 
curbless and wide; 9. low bathtub; 10. toilet higher than standard toilet, or heightadjustable; 
design of the toilet paper holder allows rolls to be changed with one hand; 12. wallhung 
with knee space and panel to protect user from pipes; and 13. slipresistant 
flooring in bathroom 
and shower. 
1. base cabinet with rollout 
trays; 2. pulldown 
shelving; 3. wall support, and provision for 
adjustable and/or variedheight 
counters and removable base 
cabinets; 4. upper wall cabinetry lower than conventional height; 5. accented stripes on edge 
of countertops to provide visual orientation to the workspace; 6. counter space for dish landing 
adjacent to or opposite all appliances; 7. glassfront 
cabinet doors; and 8. open shelving for 
easy access to frequently used items. 
1. lowmaintenance 
exterior (vinyl, brick, etc); and 2. lowmaintenance 
shrubs and plants. 
1. sensor light at exterior nostep 
entry focusing on the frontdoor 
lock; 2. nonslip 
flooring in 
3. accessible path of travel to the home; 4. at least one nostep 
entry with a cover; 5. entry door 
sidelight or high/low peep hole viewer; sidelight should provide both privacy and 
safety; 6. doorbell in accessible location; and 7. a surface on which to place packages while 
opening door. 
Electrical, Lighting, Safety and Security: 
1. install new smoke and CO detectors; 2. install automated lighting, an emergency alert 
system, or a videomonitoring 
system; 3. easytosee 
and read thermostats; 4. light switches by 
each entrance to halls and rooms; 5. light receptacles with at least two bulbs in vital places 
(exits, bathroom); 6. light switches, thermostats, and other environmental controls placed in 
accessible locations no 
higher than 48 inches from floor; 7. move electrical cords out of the flow of traffic; 8. replace 
standard light switches with rocker or touchlight 
switches; and 9. preprogrammed 
1. thermostatic or antiscald 
controls; 2. lever handles or pedalcontrolled; 
and 3. 
1. if carpeted, use lowdensity 
with firm pad; 2. smooth, nonglare, 
interior and exterior; and 3. color and texture contrast to indicate change in surface levels. 
1. wide; 2. welllit; 
and 3. fasten down rugs and floor runners, and remove any that are not 
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning: 
1. install energyefficient 
units; 2. HVAC should be designed so filters are easily accessible; and 
3. windows that can be opened for crossventilation 
and fresh air. 
1. 30inch 
by 48inch 
clear space at appliances, or 60inch 
diameter clear space for turns; 2. 
work areas to accommodate cooks of different heights; 3. loop handles for easy grip 
and pull; 4. pullout 
spray faucet; 5. levered handles; 6. in multistory 
homes, laundry chute or 
laundry facilities in master bedroom; 7. open undercounter 
seated work areas; and 8. 
placement of task lighting in appropriate work areas. 
Overall Floor Plan: 
1. main living in a single story, including full bath; 2. 5x5foot 
clear turn space in living area, 
kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom; and 3. no steps between rooms on a single level. 
Reduced Maintenance and Convenience Features: 
1. easytoclean 
surfaces; 2. builtin 
recycling system; 3. video phones; 4. central vacuum 
system; 5. builtin 
pet feeding system; and 6. intercom system. 
Stairways, Lifts and Elevators: 
1. adequate hand rails on both sides of stairway; 2. residential elevator or lift; and 3. increased 
visibility of stairs through contrast strip on top and bottom stairs, and color contrast 
between treads and risers on stairs with use of lighting. 
1. lighting in closets; 2. adjustable closet rods and shelves; and 3. easyopen 
doors that do not 
obstruct access. 
1. plenty of windows for natural light; 2. lowmaintenance 
exterior and interior finishes; 
3. lowered windows, or taller windows with lower sill height; and 4. easytooperate 
Advice for those who wish to age in place: 
The Master Inspector Certification Board advocates healthy living, as it plays a vital role in your 
ability to age in place. Most seniors leave their homes due to functional and mobility limitations 
that result from medical crises, and an inability to pay for healthcare support to stay with them in 
their home. Effectively managing health risks and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you 
stay strong, age well, and live long in your own home. 
In summary, aging in place is a way by which senior citizens can avoid being dependent on 
others due to declining health and mobility. 
Talk with family members about your longterm 
living preferences. Do you want to downsize to a 
smaller singlefamily 
home, or do you plan to stay put in your traditional family home? 
Take a look at your finances and retirement funds. With your current savings and assets, will 
you be able to pay for home maintenance? Consider starting a separate retirement savings 
account strictly for home maintenance. 
Remodel your home before your mobility becomes limited. As you age, changes in mobility, 
hearing, vision, and overall health and flexibility will affect how easily you function in your home. 
Consider making your home “agefriendly” 
as a phasedin 
and budgeted home improvement, 
rather than waiting until you need many modifications at a time due to a health crisis. 
If you decide before you retire that you want to live in your current home through the remainder 
of your life, consider paying for bigticket/
home projects while you still have a healthy 
income. Such items may include having the roof assessed or replaced, replacing and upgrading 
the water heater or cooling unit, completing termite inspections and treatment, having a septic 
tank inspection and replacement, as needed, and purchasing a riding lawn mower. 
________ Slipresistant 
stairs and ramp, with color contrast or glowstrips 
at treads 
________ Handrails are easytoreach, 
of graspable size, and slipresistant 
________ Porch area is in usable condition and free of obstructions and dark areas 
________ Accessible doorways for walkers, wheelchairs, etc. 
________ Lighting (security or interiorcontrolled, 
or both) 
________ Lowmaintenance 
exterior (vinyl, brick, etc.) 
________ Driveway and walkways (in good repair for safe walking) 
________ Yard, gates, fence (easy to access, locking/secured) 
________ Garage (attached or freestanding); other outbuildings 
________ Lowmaintenance 
shrubs and plants, lawn care, trees on property 
________ Snowblower 
or other provisions for snowy weather, where applicable 
________ House number is clearly visible from street for firstresponders 
________ Motion sensor/security light at main exterior door 
________ Peephole of proper height for all residents (may require multiples) 
________ Doorbell in accessible location 
________ Surface on which to place packages while opening door 
________ All exterior doors have secure, easytouse 
locks, bolts and knobs 
________ Nonslip 
flooring in foyer 
INTERIOR: Electrical, Lighting, Safety and Security 
________ Lightactivated 
doorbell for hardofhearing 
________ Smoke and CO detectors 
________ Security alarm, emergency alert system and/or videomonitoring 
________ Thermostats are easy to locate; settings are easy to read (and no higher than 48 
inches from 
floor); thermostats are preprogrammed 
________ Light switches located near each entrance to each hallway and room 
________ Standard light switches, or rocker or touch light switches 
________ Two light bulbs or receptacles in each vital place (exits, bathrooms, etc.) 
________ Electrical cords out of the path of traffic 
________ Receptacles are easy to reach; receptacles are not overloaded 
________ Windows and safety locks are easy to operate 
________ Window drapes/shades/cords are easy to reach and open/close 
________ Interior stairs use contrast strip on top and bottom stairs, and color contrast between 
and risers on stairs, with use of lighting 
KITCHEN: Appliances & Maneuverability 
________ Microwave oven in wall or on counter; settings are easy to read 
________ Refrigerator and freezer in a sidebyside 
________ Sideswing 
or wall oven; settings are easy to read; knobs are easy to turn 
________ Raised washing machine and dryer; settings are easy to read; knobs are easy to 
turn; washing 
machine is frontloading 
________ Raised dishwasher with pushbutton 
controls or easytoturn 
________ Stoves with electric cooktops (safer than gas), with level burners for safely 
between the burners; front controls and downdraft feature to pull heat away from user; light to 
indicate when surface is hot 
________ Space around counters, islands, etc., are wide enough for residents: 30x48inch 
space at appliances, and 60inch 
diameter clear space for turns 
________ Cabinets are easy to reach; knobs/pulls are easy to use to open/close, or shelves are 
open/doorless, or have glass fronts 
________ Counters are of ample area; customheight/
adequate and safe for residents; 
countertops have contrastingcolor 
edges for the visionimpaired 
and to provide visual 
orientation to workspace 
________ Placement of task lighting in appropriate work areas 
________ Rugs have slipresistant 
backing to prevent slips and falls 
________ Window curtains/shades/cords are easy to reach and open/close 
BATHROOM: Fixtures & Maneuverability 
________ Counter heights are customfit/
adequate and safe for residents 
________ Rugs have slipresistant 
backing to prevent slips and falls 
________ Windows are easy to reach and open/close 
________ Door access to tub/shower 
________ Folddown 
seat installed in shower 
________ Shower(s) equipped with adjustable showerhead with 6foot 
________ Shower stall has recessed, waterproof, automatic light 
________ If standup 
shower is used in main bath, it is curbless and wide; if tub is used, it is low 
for easy 
access and egress 
________ Flooring in bathtub/shower is slipresistant 
________ Emergency call button or intercom is located in bathroom, easy to reach, and is 
________ Wall grabbars 
of appropriate height located in tub/shower/toilet areas 
________ Adjustable or appropriateheight 
counters with removable base cabinet for 
________ Countertops have contrastingcolor 
________ Toilet is raised or heightadjustable 
________ Toiletpaper 
holder is designed such that rolls can be switched out using only one 
________ Faucet handles are lever design rather than knob, or pedalcontrolled 
________ Cabinets are easy to reach and are open shelves/glass fronts/doorless 
________ At least one bathroom is wheelchairaccessible 
and on main level 
________ If carpeted, use lowdensity 
pile with firm pad 
________ Smooth, nonglare, 
________ Color and texture contrast to indicate change in surface levels 
________ Rugs and rug runners are secure and nonslip; 
edges are secured down 
________ No steps between rooms on a single level 
________ In multistory 
homes, laundry chute or laundry facilities located on same floor as 
________ Main living area is on a single floor, including full bath 
________ 5x5foot 
clear turn space in all main rooms 
________ For multilevel 
home, residential elevator or lift installed 
________ Lighting in all closets 
valves, also known as tempering valves and mixing valves, mix cold water in with 
outgoing hot water so that the hot water that leaves a fixture is not hot enough to scald a 
Facts and Figures 
Water that is 160° F can cause scalding in 0.5 seconds. 
Unwanted temperature fluctuations are an annoyance and a safety hazard. When a toilet is 
flushed, for instance, cold water flows into the toilet’s tank and lowers the pressure in the 
pipes. If someone is taking a shower, they will suddenly feel the water become hotter 
as less cold water is available to the shower valve. By the same principle, the shower water will 
become colder when someone in the house uses the hotwater 
faucet. This condition is 
exacerbated by plumbing that’s clogged, narrow, or installed in showers equipped with lowflow 
or multiple showerheads. A sudden burst of hot water can cause serious burns, particularly in 
young children, who have thinner skin than adults. Also, a startling thermal shock – hot or cold – 
may cause a person to fall in the shower as he or she scrambles on the slippery surface to 
adjust the water temperature. The elderly and physically challenged are at particular risk. 
valves mitigate this danger by maintaining water temperature at a safe level, even as 
pressures fluctuate in water supply lines. They look similar to ordinary shower and tub valves 
and are equipped with a special diaphragm or piston mechanism that immediately balances the 
pressure of the hotand 
inputs, limiting one or the other to keep the temperature 
within a range of several degrees. As a side effect, the use of an antiscald 
valve increases the 
amount of available hot water, as it is drawn more slowly from the water heater. Homeowners 
may want to check with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to see if these safety measures 
are required in new construction in their area. 
Installation of antiscald 
valves is typically simple and inexpensive. Most models are installed in 
the hotwater 
line and require a coldwater 
feed. They also require a swing check valve on the 
feed line to prevent hot water from entering the coldwater 
system. They may be 
installed at the water heater to safeguard the plumbing for the whole building, or only at specific 
The actual temperature of the water that comes out of the fixture may be somewhat different 
than the target temperature set on the antiscald 
valve. Such irregularities may be due to long, 
uninsulated plumbing lines, or defects in the valve itself. Users may finetune 
the valve with a 
rotating mechanism that will allow the water to become hotter or colder, depending on which 
way it’s turned. Homeowners should contact a Certified Master Inspector® or a qualified 
plumber if they have further questions or concerns about antiscald 
Scalds account for 20% of all burns. 
More than 2,000 American children are scalded each year, mostly in the bathroom and kitchen. 
Scalding and other types of burns require costly and expensive hospital stays, often involving 
skin grafts and plastic surgery. 
Scalding may lead to additional injuries, such as falls and heart attacks, especially among the 
© 2015 International Association of Certified Home Inspectors & Master Inspector Certification