As summer approaches, the City of Gainesville is urging homeowners to take the time to check their outdoor areas for potential safety hazards. Proper inspections now can help to keep your family and friends safe in the future. The International Code Council, a membership organization dedicated to building safety and fire prevention, develops the codes used to construct residential and commercial buildings, including homes and schools. Most U.S. cities, counties and states that adopt codes choose the International Codes developed by the International Code Council.
Porches, Decks and Balconies
Porches can be at risk of collapsing if they are not properly constructed or if they are old. A common safety hazard occurs when porches are nailed to buildings rather than being attached with the proper anchors or bolts. Nails are a poor method for attaching porches to buildings because they work their way loose over time. Other safety hazards to look for are:
* Split or rotting wood
* Wobbly handrails or guardrails
* Loose, missing or rusting anchors, nails or screws
* Missing, damaged or loose support beams and planking
* Poor end support of the porch deck, joists or girders
* Excessive movement of the porch when walked on
*Swaying or unstable porches
Building or repairing to code, which requires a building permit and an inspection, will help ensure that the porch is safe. The International Codes specify the amount of weight a porch is required to support. However, be careful not to allow the porch to become overcrowded. If the people on the structure have difficulty moving about, the porch could be exceeding its capacity.
Grilling on or near combustible areas can be a fire hazard. It not only puts your family and visitors at risk, but, especially in condos and apartment buildings, can put your neighbors in danger as well. The most common grilling hazards are open flames and heat generated in the grill base that can be transferred to the wood of a porch or the home's siding, causing a fire. When grilling, follow these safety tips:
* Place the grill away from siding, deck railings and out from
under eaves and overhanging branches
* Periodically remove grease or fat buildup
* Use only proper starter fluid and store the can away from heat
* Check propane cylinder hoses for leaks before use
* Do not move hot grills
* Dispose of charcoal properly, keeping ash containers outside and away from combustible construction
The 2003 International Fire Code prohibits the use of charcoal and gas grills and other open burning devices on combustible porches or within 10 feet of combustible construction. There are exceptions for certain homes and where buildings and porches are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.
Because they can be attractive — and dangerous — to young children, in-ground and above-ground pools should be surrounded by a fence or other barrier. Small, inflatable pools must also be protected. The International Building Code states that any pool with more than 24 inches of water has to have a four-foot fence or other barrier around it. Any gates in the fence must be self-closing and self-latching. Other things to consider when installing a pool:
* Building permit requirements
* Zoning requirements
* Electrical clearances and utility easements
* Insurance policies
The City of Gainesville provides minimum standards to help communities protect lives and property. Before conducting any type of work on your home, contact your local building department to determine what permits are needed and what codes must be followed.