When it comes to house design, popular trends don't always follow the cautionary phrase "safety first." Home inspectors, who are responsible for examining properties for immediate or potential concerns, agree. Home inspectors are noticing some design approaches that may appear good but aren't always safe as more homeowners renovate fixer-uppers or seek Pinterest for DIY design inspiration.
Below are five housing trends that property inspectors are concerned about because they could pose health and safety risks.
Floating shelves in the kitchen are a great way to display your beautiful stoneware, and they can also be used in the living room to create a gallery space for your favorite books and collectibles. While it may appear that adding floating shelves is a simple undertaking, Valentino Gecaj of Valentino Home Inspections in Westchester, New York, claims that many of the DIY projects he's seen lack proper support. Molly bolts or wall anchors are required to secure a floating shelf to, say, plaster or drywall. "Floating shelves are easier to overburden with weight than standard shelves," says Gecaj.
Joe Tangradi, director of technical services at HouseMaster, a Neighborly firm, has noticed elegant staircases in both new constructions and restored homes when it comes to steps. However, these ultra-modern floating staircases are frequently beset by safety issues. For one thing, when four or more risers are constructed, he says, a railing is essential, but many new stairs toss caution to the wind and don't have handrails, or have handrails that aren't easily graspable. Risers can also be open as long as the gap between them does not exceed 4 inches. Any larger and there's a risk of young children or dogs slipping and falling to the floor!
Vintage appliances may give your kitchen a touch of whimsy and a splash of color. Not only are replacement components difficult to come by in the event of a breakdown, but some of these appliances are also hazardous. According to Gecaj, they have a far higher risk of igniting electrical fires. Many vintage stoves also lack modern safety measures like anti-tip technology and electrical components that are sealed. Many appliance manufacturers are reproducing retro designs to suit modern standards, so if you like the retro aesthetic, you're in luck.
Handrails aren't often the most fascinating design element in a room. Nonetheless, they exist for safety reasons and can aid in the prevention of dangerous falls. However, Welmoed Sisson, a home inspector and author of "101 Items You Don't Want in Your Home," has noticed a worrying trend in recent years: homeowners removing graspable handrails from their walls and replacing them with things like rope for a nautical vibe or hockey sticks for a sports motif. Those do-it-yourself handrails would fail a home inspection.
Exposed brick makes a statement with its ability to lend charm and character to any room. However, brick is porous and a poor insulator, according to Gecaj. Not only will your home be less energy efficient as a result of this, but "exposed brickwork can bring in excess moisture and a variety of insects," he adds. If you do decide to move into a home with exposed brick walls, make careful to apply a sealer to help preserve the walls from dirt and moisture (which can lead to mold problems).