Entry steps can be made of stone, concrete, brick, metal, or wood. As a safety precaution, when more than two steps are necessary, at least one handrail should be installed especially if the house is located in an area where the temperature drops below freezing. In those areas, the steps can be coated with a layer of ice after a freezing rain. Look specifically for differences in the vertical distance between the steps (risers). (See FIG. 4-2.) Any dimensional variations in the risers are potential tripping hazards. Some steps are designed so that the vertical distance between the treads is open (open risers). Although this might be aesthetically pleasing, it is a potential tripping hazard.
Fig. 4-1. A single step in the middle of a path is a potential hazard. The shrubs on both sides of this path call attention to the step. However, there should also be an outdoor light in the area.
If the entry door opens onto the entry steps, a landing platform rather than a step tread is necessary at the doorway. The turnaround area of a single step tread is not considered adequate to operate a door safely. The platform should provide sufficient space to allow adequate standing room while opening the door, which swings over the landing. (See FIG. 4-3.)
When inspecting the steps, look specifically for cracked, broken, rotting, chipped, and loose sections. The treads should be level. Uneven sections are a tripping hazard. If the steps are masonry-constructed, look at the step foundation walls for cracked, broken, and chipped sections. Any wood stringers (the side portions of the steps that support the treads) should be resting on a concrete pad rather than on the soil. Check the base of wooden stringers for rot by probing the area with a screwdriver. If the screwdriver penetrates the wood easily, the stringer should be replaced. Metal handrails are often used with exterior steps. Very often, these handrails are corroding and have deep pockets of rust. In this case, the handrails should be scraped, primed, and repainted.
There are probably as many types and styles of patios as there are houses. The more common types are concrete slab, stone set in mortar, and brick set in the ground. In all cases, a particular concern is whether any tripping hazards can result from cracked, broken, or uneven sections. Some patios have a grid pattern consisting of wood embedded in the ground around sections of brick or concrete. This wood should be pressure-treated to protect it from rot. However, the wood is normally not pressure-treated, so that after a few years it rots and requires replacement. Concrete-slab patios should have expansion joints and control joints for cracking. Very often these items are omitted, and the patio cracks in a random fashion that is aesthetically undesirable. Look at the patio for signs of uneven settlement. If a patio is adjacent to the house and has settled so that it is sloping toward the house, water can accumulate around the joint between the patio and the foundation wall. This water will eventually accumulate around the foundation and if the house has a basement, might enter the lower level. This condition should be indicated on your worksheet for later correction and as a reminder for you to check the area of the basement adjacent to the patio.