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Professional Home Inspection Services. Cofer Real Estate Inspections performs new and existing home inspections for the greater Dallas area.

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Filtering by Tag: bathroom

Elderly Safety in the Home

Julian Cofer

"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 needs. 

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 assisted-living settings.

Many corrections and adaptations to the home can improve maneuverability, accessibility, and safety for elderly occupants, as well as those whose mobility is limited for reasons that are not age-related. Some such alterations and recommendations for a home are as follows:

Appliances:

  • microwave oven in wall or on counter; 
  • refrigerator and freezer side by side; 
  • side-swing or wall oven; 
  • controls that are easy to read; 
  • raised washing machine and dryer; 
  • front-loading washing machines; 
  • raised dishwasher with push-button controls; 
  • 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 
  • replace old stoves with induction cooktops to help prevent burns.

Countertops:

  • base cabinet with roll-out trays; 
  • pull-down shelving; 
  • wall support, and provision for adjustable and/or varied-height counters and removable base cabinets; 
  • upper wall cabinetry lower than conventional height; 
  • accented stripes on edge of countertops to provide visual orientation to the workspace; 
  • counter space for dish landing adjacent to or opposite all appliances; 
  • glass-front cabinet doors; and
  • open shelving for easy access to frequently used items.

Bathroom:

  • fold-down seat installed in the shower; 
  • adjustable showerheads with 6-foot hose; 
  • light in shower stall; 
  • wall support, and provision for adjustable and/or varied-height counters and removable base cabinets; 
  • contrasting color edge border at countertops; 
  • at least one wheelchair-maneuverable bath on main level; 
  • bracing in walls around tub, shower, shower seat and toilet for installation of grab bars; 
  • if stand-up shower is used in main bath, it is curbless and wide; 
  • low bathtub; 
  • walk-in shower;
  • toilet higher than standard toilet, or height-adjustable; 
  • design of the toilet paper holder allows rolls to be changed with one hand; 
  • wall-hung sink with knee space and panel to protect user from pipes; and
  • slip-resistant flooring in bathroom and shower.

Exterior:

  • low-maintenance exterior (vinyl, brick, etc); and 
  • low-maintenance shrubs and plants.

Entry:

  • sensor light at exterior no-step entry focusing on the front-door lock; 
  • non-slip flooring in foyer; 
  • accessible path of travel to the home; 
  • at least one no-step entry with a cover; 
  • entry door sidelight or high/low peep hole viewer; sidelight should provide both privacy and safety; 
  • doorbell in accessible location; and
  • a surface on which to place packages while opening door.

Electrical, Lighting, Safety and Security:

  • install new smoke and CO detectors; 
  • install automated lighting, an emergency alert system, or a video-monitoring system; 
  • easy-to-see and read thermostats; 
  • light switches by each entrance to halls and rooms; 
  • light receptacles with at least two bulbs in vital places (exits, bathroom); 
  • light switches, thermostats and other environmental controls placed in accessible locations no higher than 48 inches from floor; 
  • move electrical cords out of the flow of traffic; 
  • replace standard light switches with rocker or touch-light switches; and
  • pre-programmed thermostats.

Flooring:

  • if carpeted, use low-density with firm pad; 
  • smooth, non-glare, slip-resistant surfaces, interior and exterior; and
  • color and texture contrast to indicate change in surface levels.

Hallways:

  • wide; 
  • well-lit; and
  • fasten down rugs and floor runners, and remove any that are not necessary.

Miscellaneous:

  • 30-inch by 48-inch clear space at appliances, or 60-inch diameter clear space for turns; 
  • multi-level work areas to accommodate cooks of different heights; 
  • loop handles for easy grip and pull; 
  • pull-out spray faucet; 
  • levered handles; 
  • in multi-story homes, laundry chute or laundry facilities in master bedroom; 
  • open under-counter seated work areas; and
  • placement of task lighting in appropriate work areas.

Overall Floor Plan:

  • main living on a single story, including full bath; 
  • 5-foot by 5-foot clear turn space in living area, kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom; and
  • no steps between rooms on a single level.

Reduced Maintenance and Convenience Features:

  • easy-to-clean surfaces; 
  • built-in recycling system; 
  • video phones; 
  • central vacuum system; 
  • built-in pet feeding system; and
  • intercom system.

Stairways, Stair Lifts and Elevators:

  • adequate handrails on both sides of stairway; 
  • residential elevator or lift; and
  • increased visibility of stairs using contrast strips on the top and bottom stairs, and color contrast between treads and risers on stairs with use of lighting.

Storage:

  • lighting in closets; 
  • adjustable closet rods and shelves; and
  • easy-open doors that do not obstruct access.

Windows:

  • plenty of windows for natural light; 
  • low-maintenance exterior and interior finishes; 
  • lowered windows, or taller windows with lower sill height; and
  • easy-to-operate hardware.

Advice for those who wish to age in place:

  • Talk with family members about your long-term living preferences. Do you want to downsize to a smaller single-family 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 “age-friendly” as a phased-in 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 life, consider paying for “big ticket – long life” 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. 
  • Healthy living 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 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 at your own home.

Residential Outbuildings

An alternative to adapting the primary residence is building or adapting an ancillary structure on the property.  So-called mother-in-law apartments are sometimes built over detached garages so that the non-primary resident can enjoy some autonomy and independence from the nuclear family in the main house.  Carriage houses, barns and studios are often adapted as extra living quarters.  While these types of dwellings can be upgraded to offer the basic necessities of a standard home, such as a sleeping area, sitting area, refrigerator, toilet, shower stall and sink, they may lack a bathtub, stove, and separate rooms.  The electrical and plumbing services tend to be limited, including the number of receptacles and GFCIs.  Also, there may be no HVAC system beyond required system venting. 

Mobile housing units, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), practical assisted-living structures (PALS), the nicknamed "med cottages" and "granny-pods" are newer housing innovations that are gaining popularity with homeowners who wish to house aging or infirm relatives on their properties without building an addition onto the primary residence.  Both parties are able to enjoy some privacy, and the non-primary resident can achieve an appropriate level of independence.  Many of these units have high-tech features, such as electronic medical alert systems, timers, video monitors, and automated floor lighting, such as that which illuminates the path from the bed to the bathroom that turns on by foot pressure.  

While these units may incorporate some abbreviated systems of a traditional home (i.e., electrical, plumbing, HVAC), high-tech features such as those described will require installation by a manufacturer's representative or other knowledgeable expert.  Additionally, local zoning laws may have certain requirements for such structures, or may prohibit them altogether.  Before families go to the energy and expense of upgrading an ancillary structure, they should check with their local building or zoning department.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you like what you have read stay tuned for more to come. Cofer Real Estate Inspections serves Dallas and Forth including surrounding cities. I provide Home Inspection for buyers and sellers, as well as warranty and maintenance inspections. Schedule a Home Inspection online or call me directly at 469-450-0020

Home Maintenance Newsletter - Bathtub and Showers

Julian Cofer

Bathtubs

Bathtubs are made from many different types of materials, including enameled cast-iron, porcelain-enameled steel, and plastic. Plastic tubs are made from materials including ABS, PVC, fiberglass, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, acrylic, and cultured-marble acrylic. Bathtubs that are equipped with shower fixtures should be manufactured with slip-resistant surfaces. Bathtubs should have a drainage outlet (tailpiece) with a minimum diameter of 1-1/2 inches. Every tub should be equipped with a stopper. The bathtub should have an overflow outlet installed. The overflow prevents flooding if the tub is being filled while unattended, and prevents overflow of the water when a person enters a tub that is full.

Fire-Resistance

Bathtubs made of plastic are tested for fire ignition.  They are made with fire-resistant chemicals to reduce their fuel contribution in a house fire, or an accidental exposure to a plumber’s torch.  

Large Bathtub Loads

Some bathtubs are so large that they can accommodate more than one person at a time.  These larger bathtubs may need special and additional structural support underneath them to adequately support the load. 
A 3x4-foot bathtub may have a capacity to hold 200 gallons or more.  The weight of the bathtub, water, and occupants may total over 1 ton, considering: 

                                                  200 pounds for the bathtub
                                            + 1,600 pounds of water
                                            +    350 pounds for two people
                                            = 2,150 pounds


A very large tub may cause structural problems because live-loading for a typical residential home is 40 pounds per square foot.  The live load for a 3x4-foot occupied tub may be assumed to be only 480 pounds, but may weigh over 2,000 pounds while it is in use.

Maintenance Tips

The homeowner should make sure that the tub is free of cracks, rust and other staining, and that all edges, gaps and surrounding tile are adequately caulked to ensure that moisture cannot leach behind the tile work and drywall, which can lead to leaks and structural damage behind walls that won’t be evident until the issue becomes extensive and expensive to fix.

Showers

Plastic, pre-fabricated shower units are constructed of various synthetic materials, including ABS, PVC, gel-coated fiberglass-reinforced plastic, cultured marble, cast-filled fiberglass, polyester, cultured marble acrylic, and acrylic.  These shower units are impregnated with fire-retardant chemicals to reduce the fuel contribution during a fire, and protection against an accidental burn by a plumber's torch.  

The showerhead height is not typically regulated by building codes, but the head is commonly installed 70 to 80 inches above the shower floor.  

Shower Water Pipes 

Water-supply pipes from the shower valve to the showerhead outlet -- referred to as the shower riser pipes -- whether exposed or not, must be firmly attached to a structural component to prevent the pipes from leaking caused by stress fractures or joint failures.  Movement of the showerhead may move the riser piping, possibly causing failure of the piping.  The risers must be firmly secured.  

The common practice for installing the riser pipe is to place a drop-ear elbow at the top of the riser pipe.  The elbow has two wing connections.  They can be screwed to a structural backing board, such as a 2x4.  A pipe strap can be used instead of a drop-ear elbow.  When the riser is exposed, the manufacturer will typically provide a strap or attachment device to match the finish of the fixture and pipe.  The strap or attachment device should be firmly secured to a structural component.

Shower Outlets

The waste outlet for a shower should have minimum diameter of 1-1/2 inches.  The shower outlet should have a strainer that is at least 3 inches in diameter, with dimensional openings in the strainer of at least a 1/4-inch.  The strainer should be removable. 

Shower Area

A shower compartment should have an interior cross-sectional area of at least 900 square inches.  This will allow an average-sized adult to clean the lower body while bending over.  A shower that’s any smaller would be inadequately sized.  Shower compartments should be at least 30 inches in minimum dimension.  This measurement is based on the movement of an adult body inside a shower and measured from the finished     interior dimension of the compartment, excluding fixture valves, showerheads, soap dishes and grab bars.  There are exceptions for showers having fold-down seats, and those with compartments at least 25 inches wide and 1,300 square inches in cross-sectional area.

The exception allows for a shower with one dimension being 25 inches, provided the compartment has at least 1,300 square inches of cross-sectional area.  This is useful to contractors and DIY homeowners who remove an old bathtub and install a standup shower fixture in the same space.

Shower Walls

Showers and bathtubs with installed showerheads should be finished with a non-absorbent surface that shall extend to a height of not less than 6 feet above the floor level of the room, or 70 inches above the shower floor.  It should be constructed of smooth, corrosion-resistant and non-absorbent materials to protect the structural components from moisture damage.  The gypsum or cement wallboard behind ceramic tiles of a shower wall should be water-resistant. The water-resistant material is not required in the rest of the bathroom, although it is a common practice to use water-resistant gypsum wallboard in other areas of the bathroom because of the moisture levels.

Shower Access and Egress Opening

Many injuries in a home are related to accidents in the bathtub or shower.  The minimum opening requirements for access and egress allows an adult enough room to safely step into and exit the shower area without having to twist or turn through a narrow opening.  The shower opening (or access and egress opening) should be at least 22 inches of clear and unobstructed finish-width.  The 22-inch width is based on the approximate shoulder width of an average-sized adult, and provides comfortable access to service the valves, showerheads and drain.  It allows for emergency response and rescue access, and emergency egress.

Shower Floors

The shower floor surface must be watertight with smooth, corrosion-resistant, non-absorbent, waterproof materials.  Joints between the floor and walls of the shower must be sealed or flashed to prevent water penetration.  Ideally, there should be some type of slip-resistant floor surface.  The shower floor structure needs proper support by a smooth and structurally sound base.  The base of the shower floor should be designed to support both dead (structural) and live (people and water) loads.  

Shower pans and liners are installed under and around showers to prevent moisture intrusion from getting into the structural supports under and behind the shower enclosure.  They must meet specific standards for material, installation and size in order to support both dead and live loads.

Shower Glazing

Glass doors enclosing the shower should be made of safety glazing.  If a window is installed in the shower, the window should be made of safety glazing to provide protection.  If a person slips or falls inside the shower, s/he may be seriously injured by broken glass if the glass is not made of safety glazing.  The safety glazing should be correctly labeled by being permanently marked in a corner, legible and visible after installation, and indoor applications should be marked “indoor use only.” 

Maintenance Tips

Similar to other bathroom fixtures, the homeowner should make sure that the shower is free of cracks, rust and other staining, and that all edges, gaps and surrounding tile are adequately caulked to ensure that moisture cannot leach behind the tile work and drywall, which can lead to leaks and structural damage behind walls that won’t be evident until the issue becomes extensive and expensive to fix.  Additionally, if the glazing for the showers doors is damaged, it should be replaced, as cracked glazing can break without notice and cause serious injuries.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you like what you have read stay tuned for  more to come. Cofer Real Estate Inspections serves Dallas and Fort Worth including  surrounding cities. I provide Home Inspections for buyers and sellers as well as Warranty and  Maintenance inspections. Schedule a Home Inspection online or call me directly at 469-450-0020.