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Buying

7 Safety Features Every Home Should Have

If you’ve done your due diligence when selecting a house then you’ve probably thought about your lifestyle–you know how many square feet, bathrooms and bedrooms it will take, as well as exactly what features you and your family need to be happy. But do you know the seven basic home features you need to be safe?

Windows

Windows and doors are the number one points of access for criminals. How secure are the windows in that new home you’re considering?

Image of windows in house

If you’re buying an older home, particularly one with double hung windows, unlock and open every window to make sure the windows haven’t been painted shut and that they open easily. Look at the locks on the window. Are they secure, or can they be easily jimmied opened with a screwdriver? If you’re not sure, take photos of the window and lock with your cellphone. Show them to a locksmith or other building expert for advice. If your home has tilting windows, make sure to get extra security for them. Locking handles, add-on bars, and other devices can make bad window design more secure. Bad windows shouldn’t necessarily deter you from the home, but do factor the cost of each window modification into your price offer.

Doors and Locks

Image of door and bolts

Doors should have at least a 1-inch deadbolt into a reinforced wood or steel doorframe. All exterior doors should be solid wood or steel, not hollow core (you’d be surprised at how some homeowners choose to save money). If you have glass panes in the door, have keyed dead bolts that prevent criminals from breaking the glass and reaching through a broken window to turn the deadbolt.

Staircases and Rises

Image of staircase in house

All staircases, even a one or two-step transition from one area to another, should have a strong handrail that is easily gripped and securely fastened. Check the width of the step (called the tread) itself. The safest, most comfortable tread for the average person is 10-to-11 inches. Next, check the rise of the stairs. The rise is the vertical distance from one stair tread to the next. If you’re taller or shorter than 5-foot-3-inches to 6-foot-2-inches, the best rise may vary, but according to International Residential Code (IRC), 7¾ inches is the maximum height allowable. Some do-it-yourselfers or contractors may have installed steeper risers to accommodate space.

Marble, Brick, and Stone

Image of patio with stone ground

A beautiful stone, brick or rock entrance or patio can be a stunning feature to any home, but will it be safe to walk on when it’s raining, misting, or snowing? Is there a sturdy handrail that would hold your weight if you slipped and fell while holding on? Is there a broad expanse of surface to the front door where there is nothing to hold onto? Most stone becomes extremely slippery when moist or wet. The older we get, the less able we are to stay upright when navigating slippery surfaces. Brick, particularly in shady areas, needs to be cleaned regularly with muriatic acid to strip algae. This is a dangerous and toxic acid for the average homeowner to use. Think about who will be walking on these patios, paths and steps. If you are older or have younger family members, than lots of stone steps, paths and patios might not be a good feature to have.

Lighting

Image of old style lamp

Lighting isn’t just for the outside to increase curb appeal and keep criminals away. Studies show that poor or low lighting inside the home can contribute to slips and falls, particularly in those over sixty. If the home doesn’t have installed lighting in hallways, rooms or corners, make sure that you consider installing it, or putting in lamps or sconces to increase the light. Visit your potential home after dark as well as during the day. Is there enough security lighting? Can you easily see your way to the front or side entrances with the lighting currently installed, or is it too dim or poorly placed? Is there good lighting at the door itself so you don’t have to fumble with your keys and packages to find the lock?

Landscaping

Image of house exterior with bushes and trees

Landscaping can make or break your curb appeal and your enjoyment of your yard, but bushes and trees can also make it easier for burglars to hide and to access your home undetected. Also, keep an eye out for taller trees that could fall on your home during a storm. How close are they to the house or other structures, and how healthy are they? When you have your home inspection done it wouldn’t hurt to call in a tree trimming company who can evaluate the health and safety of the trees on the property. After all, it might not be your property a tree threatens–you may have trees that could threaten a neighbor’s home, fence or property.

Electrical

Image of empty blue living room with electrical sockets

Most of us take power, power outlets, and electricity for granted. If it’s there, it probably works. Your home inspector will check on this for you, but go through each room and count the number of electrical outlets yourself anyway. Think about how many items you own that will need to be plugged in. Do you have enough outlets?

These are common-sense features that many homeowners don’t think about until after they’ve moved in. Take time to look at each feature while you’re house hunting and save yourself some surprises as well as costly repairs and upgrades.


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Happy house hunting!

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Becky Blanton is a full-time ghostwriter and writing coach for Fortune 500 companies, CEOs, and business speakers. In 2009 she spoke at TED Global at Oxford University, her first ever public speaking gig. When she's not writing, she's kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay. Her dream home is to live aboard a sailing or houseboat.

2 Replies to 7 Safety Features Every Home Should Have

  1. Muriatic acid to wash brick? How out of touch are you? A pressure washer is all you need. Just point and blast away the algae (and anything else staining the stone) with WATER. sheesh. Also, finding your dream house and discovering it’s a few outlets shy of modern standards of 3 outlets/wall, then not getting the house, is just stupid. It’s not that difficult to add more outlets, either by contractor or DIY.

    All trees die at some point, and you WANT your home to have shade. It saves cooling costs, adds curb appeal, and home insurance will handle any trees that get uprooted. It happens, and is unavoidable. But do NOT call your local tree trimming company… to them, ALL trees are “nearing death” or need a major trimming. After all, that’s their bread and butter. Consult a horticultural expert to determine the health of your trees, not a butcher.

  2. Hi William, thanks for reading and sharing some further tips! It’s always great to hear what has worked for other people.

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