Q: What is the purpose behind inspecting a home’s windows?
Windows let in natural light, allow occupants to see outside and help control air quality and air movement through the home. Yet, if they are not properly installed, sealed and maintained, they can cause more than a few headaches, literally.
Anytime the construction of a solid wall in a home or business is interrupted to create an opening, the potential exists for water, cold or hot unconditioned air to enter the home, exists. The water can easily cause damage to walls and ceilings. Hot and cold air leaks can make a room uncomfortable for occupants and drive up energy costs.
“Beware of the guillotine-type double-hung window sashes,” an Inspector said. “These are generally found in older wood-framed windows with broken guides so the sash won’t stay open. They can often by identified by the wood prop stick left lying in the sill.” The window sash refers to the framed part of a window that holds the glass in place. In double-hung windows, the lower sash is generally supposed to slide up and down on a guide to allow the windows to open and close.
Broken sashes can result in the lower part of the window crashing down on fingers or a head, causing pain and possible property damage. Without a professional inspection, these types of maintenance issues can remain hidden behind drapes or mini-blinds, which have also been known to come crashing down on an Inspector or two. “Understanding more about the type of windows in a home or business and their condition allows investors to make decisions up front and provides peace of mind,” another Inspector said. For more information about the scope of a property inspection, contact your local GPI Inspector.
Installing a door that swings open out over stairs to save space or may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it is really a serious safety concern.
If door opens unexpectedly over stairs, someone coming up the stairs, or waiting at the top of the stairs could fall. Opening the door may mean backing down the stairs, a tricky situation when carrying bags or boxes. The sudden change in floor levels when the door is opened is another potential trip or fall hazard whether coming up or going down because it’s unexpected.
Some other tips for reducing falls on stairs include:
- Never rush up or down stairs.
- Avoid carrying boxes or bags that may block your view of the stairs.
- Install non-skid stair surfaces.
- Avoid using stairs as storage.
Although codes differ from place to place, landings are generally required at the top and bottom of main exterior stairways. A landing is not necessarily required at the top of interior stairs, unless a door swings out over the stairs. In this case, a landing is required or the door must swing in toward a room. Another simple way to remove this potential safety hazard is to remove the door. Get more tips on stair safety >
Egress windows are used in specific locations of a home, such as bedrooms or in basements with habitable space, to provide an additional emergency exit. These windows are officially called and Emergency Escape and Rescue Opening and must meet local codes. The International Residential Code also sets some minimums for egress window openings, height and distance from the floor. The sizes for window openings differ depending on where the bedroom is located: basement, main level or upper story. Openings are designed to allow for a fully-equipped firefighter to enter a structure in the event of a fire.
Size does matter when it comes to planning for an egress opening during a remodel, but it isn’t the only issue with when it comes to the safety of an escape plan. It is essential in an emergency that these windows operate easily. “A properly-sized egress window should be operable from the inside without the use of keys, tools, hardware or special knowledge,” said one Inspector. To meet this requirement, a person should be able to unlock the window in one motion, open it in one motion and exit quickly.
Two other things to consider with a basement egress window concern the outdoor window well. The size is important to making a quick exit and having proper drainage will help keep water out of the basement.
Sometimes “seeing” through walls, or in the dark, is possible even without superpowers. Looking inside the walls of a building is done using a special camera, called an infrared or thermographic camera that takes pictures based on heat levels rather than light. These heat signature images can help firefighters find hotspots, assist wildlife biologists wanting to track nocturnal movements of deer and help police helicopter pilots track fleeing suspects at night.
Thermal imaging has also been used in energy auditing of buildings to located heat loss, indicating where to shore up insulation or to detect a leak in a wall or pipe. Leaks often show up as “cooler” areas in the pictures. They have even been used to search for lost pets who accidentally found their way into the walls.
Using the thermal imaging camera requires a seasoned, certified operator because of the importance of properly calibrating and “reading” images created by the camera. An error in a reading can result in money lost fixing a non-existing problem. However, a correct reading can pinpoint a leak and reduce the need to break through multiple ceilings and walls in search of a leak.
Did You Know?
The Romans were the first people known to use glass for windows around 100 AD. However, these cast windows had poor optical qualities. Even the brilliantly colored stained-glass windows of the Middle Ages didn’t let church-goers see out. Instead, they told stories from the religious texts. Making flat sheets of transparent glass required advances in technology and tools. Window glass initially appeared in the early 1800s.