Egress Windows for Fire Safety

Egress Windows for Fire Safety

Egress:  Basements and every sleeping room should have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue opening that opens directly onto a public street, public alley, yard or court. This standard is required because many deaths and injuries happen when occupants are asleep at the time of a house fire and the normal means of escape (through doors) are typically blocked. 

The sill height of the emergency escape and rescue opening should not be more than 44 inches above the floor. If the window has a sill height below ground level, a window well should be provided. The window well should have a horizontal area of at least 9 square feet, with a minimum horizontal projection and width of 36 inches (with the exception of a ladder encroachment into the required dimension).  If an emergency escape window is located under a porch or deck, the porch or deck should allow the window to be fully opened and the escape path should be at least 3 feet high. 

You can’t be prepared to act in an emergency if you don’t have a plan and everybody knows what that plan is.  Panic and fear can spread as quickly as a fire, so map out an escape route and a meeting place outdoors, and involve even the youngest family members so that everyone can work as a unit to make a safe escape.

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Window Maintenance

Window Maintenance

Condition:  Window frames, sills and sashes should be monitored because the interior condition and hardware of windows change over time. Frame materials can include plastic, aluminum, steel, wood, plastic-clad wood, and metal-clad (steel or aluminum) wood. Window types include double-hung, single-hung, casement, horizontal sliding, projected out or awning, projected in, and fixed. In addition to these, there are jalousies, which are glass louvers on an aluminum or steel frame. 

At older sashes, the glazing compound or putty around the glass panels should be monitored carefully, since this is a vulnerable part of the window and its repair is time-consuming. Check the panels in steel or aluminum sashes for signs of deterioration, such as hardened sealant. Check metal sashes for weep holes that have been blocked by paint, sealant or dirt. Weep holes are usually easy to clean. Storm windows and doors should be monitored for operation, weathertightness, overall condition, and fit. 

Weatherstripping:  Window and door weatherstripping is generally one of three types: metal; foam plastic; or plastic stripping. Each type should have a good fit. Check the metal for dents, bends and straightness. Check foam plastic for resiliency, and plastic stripping for brittleness and cracks. Make sure the weatherstripping is securely held in place. 

Shutters & Awnings:  Periodically check the shutters’ operation and observe their condition and fit. Shutters close to the ground can be examined from the ground. Shutters out of reach from the ground should be examined from inside the house. 

Monitor the condition of your awnings. The attachment to the exterior wall can become loose. Oftentimes, an attachment device in the mortar joint of a brick wall can be easily pulled or slid outward. Some windows and glazed exterior doors have awnings over them for decoration, sun control, and protection from the weather. 

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Buried Oil Tanks

Buried Oil Tanks

A buried oil tank can be concealed by heavy landscaping. Buried ferrous-metal oil tanks are commonly found on older properties whose home and/or domestic water supply is heated by oil. As with all underground items, a buried oil tank is not within the scope of a visual home inspection.  The presence of a buried oil tank can usually be determined by finding the fill and vent pipes that extend above ground. Abandoned and very old buried ferrous-metal oil tanks are an environmental hazard. 

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 fumes collect inside homes and other buildings. Any petroleum-contaminated water that is ingested or used to bathe is potentially deadly. A tank is capable of leaking chemicals for many years, since the corrosion process is typically slow.

If there is a buried tank on your property, the soil around it should be tested by a qualified environmental professional for the presence of oil seepage. If leaking has occurred, the tank and all contaminated soil around it must be removed. A tank that shows leakage must be removed from the ground or filled with a chemically inert solid, such as sand. Groundwater contaminants too must be removed by pumping air through the water, which causes volatile petroleum compounds to vaporize and biodegrade naturally.

If leaking has not occurred, it may still be a potential problem. Even if a tank is empty, it still may have residual oil in the bottom that is a pollutant. Consult with a specialist about the best option for dealing with an underground tank on your property.

#buriedoiltanks

The Attic

The Attic

An attic is an unconditioned space between the roof and the ceiling or walls of the building’s inhabited rooms. In a small house with a pitched roof, the attic is usually partially or fully accessible. In a house with a low-slope roof, it may be inaccessible or virtually nonexistent.

Roof Leaks:  Look for signs of and monitor water leakage from the roof above and try to locate the source. This may be difficult to do beneath built-up roofs or loosely laid and mechanically fastened single-ply roofs, since water may travel horizontally between layers of roofing materials. 

Attic Ventilation:  Signs of inadequate ventilation are rusting nails (in roof sheathing, soffits, and drywall ceilings), wet or rotted roof sheathing, and excessive heat buildup. Adequate attic ventilation can be measured by calculating the ratio of the free area of all vents to the floor area. The free area of vents is defined as their clear, open area. If a vent has an insect screen, its free area is reduced by half. The free vent area-to-floor area ratio should be 1 to 150. If the calculated ratio is less, consider adding ventilation, especially if you’re in a hot and humid climate.

If the attic also contains an occupied space, check that the ventilation from the unconditioned, unoccupied areas at the eaves is continuous to the gable or ridge vents. Also check that the free area of eave vents is approximately equal to the free area of ridge or gable vents. If ventilation appears to be inadequate and additional vents cannot be added economically, consider adding mechanical ventilation. 

Vents and Birds:  Make sure ventilation openings are clear of dirt and debris. At larger ventilation openings on a building’s exterior and where louvered grilles are used, such as at gables, check for the presence of 1-½-inch-square 14- or 16-gauge aluminum mesh bird screen. If there is none or it is in poor condition, consider having new bird screen installed. 

Plumbing Stacks and Exhaust Ducts:  All plumbing stacks should continue through the roof and should not terminate in the attic. The stack pipes should not be loose, broken or damaged. Exhaust ducts should not be kinked, broken or damaged.  They should not terminate in the attic but should continue through the roof, gable or wall.

#attic #atticventilation #roofleaks #atticplumbingstacks #atticexhaustducts #atticbirdprevention