Consider these child safety concerns in old homes
Q: We're buying a 1929 vintage home and are concerned about child safety for our 2-year-old. What safety problems might we incur with an old home that would not be a consideration in a newer one?
A: Child-safety hazards can be found in homes of any age, but additional concerns apply to vintage dwellings. Chief among these are the following:
• Safety railings in older homes often have spaces wide enough for children to fit through. This affects the safety of stairways, decks, lofts, etc. Requirements for newer construction specify smaller spaces to prevent children from falling. In older homes, upgrades are advised.
• Older homes typically have ungrounded outlets. Safety devices should be installed on outlets that are accessible to small children, whether or not the outlets are grounded.
• Tempered safety glass was not required in old homes. This affects sliding glass doors, floor-level windows, tub and shower enclosures, and some other glazed areas. Upgrading to current standards is advised for the safety of adults, as well as children.
• Lead-based paint was typically applied in homes built prior to 1978. If lead paint is peeling or chipping, ingestion by children is commonly recognized as a health hazard. In most cases, old lead paint has been covered with later applications of latex paint. This does not eliminate the lead, but it does make it less accessible. Unfortunately, removal of lead paint from old homes can be tedious and costly. Instead, try to keep kids from teething on the old woodwork.
Child safety is vital, regardless of the age of a home. Cabinets need childproof latches, stairways need gates, and direct access to pools and spas should be restricted, as specified by local ordinances. Nevertheless, many children find new and creative ways of challenging the best efforts of safety-conscious parents.
Q: A nationally known retailer sends me emails advertising texture coating for the exterior of my home. They boast a lifetime guarantee and imply that the house will need no future maintenance. Are these claims reliable?
A: There is no such thing as an exterior coating that will last a lifetime. The reason companies can make this claim is very few people keep a home for a lifetime. Most homeowners sell their properties within five to 10 years, and because the warranty does not pass to the new owner, the company that coated the home is off the hook when the texture coat eventually begins to crack and peel.
The one guarantee you can definitely count on is the acclaimed material, sooner or later, will absolutely deteriorate. When it does, restoring a uniform finish is difficult.
Another shortcoming with these coatings is the texture is often applied to all outside surfaces, including eaves, wood trim, door jambs, window frames, electric service panels and gas meters. When peeling finally occurs, restoration involves endless scraping.
These lifetime warranty claims are dishonest. Conventional materials, such as high-quality paint, are best for refinishing your home's exterior.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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