Hallway and staircase

The remaining rooms in the house should be checked as described previously. In addition, the connecting hallway should be inspected as you walk from one part of the house to another. The hallway should be treated as an interior room, and its walls, floor, ceiling, and trim should be inspected. Look for an overhead light in the hall. Is it controlled by three-way switches located at both ends of the hall? It should be. As a fire-safety measure, a smoke detector or equivalent should be mounted on the ceiling of the hallway leading to the bed-rooms. If there is a smoke detector, is it properly located? The corners of a hallway where the walls and ceiling meet is considered dead-air space. This means that even though smoke will circulate and accumulate near the ceiling, it will not penetrate into those corners until the hall is completely filled with smoke. According to the National Fire Code: “Spot-type smoke detectors shall be located on the ceiling not less than six inches from a side wall, or if on the side wall, between six to twelve inches from the ceiling.” Neither wall- nor ceiling-mounted detectors should be placed near a light fixture or a ventilation grille that could block smoke from reaching the detector. If you see an incorrectly located smoke detector, you should alert the seller and record it on your worksheet.

As you proceed from one level to another, check the connecting staircase. Squeaky treads, as with squeaky floors, indicate loose sections. They are not a concerning factor, but if excessive, they are annoying. Correcting the problem is often difficult because the underside is usually concealed. The steps should be uniformly spaced without any dimensional variation. It is not uncommon to find basement steps with uneven risers for the bottom and top steps. This condition is a potential hazard, since someone can easily trip.

As a safety precaution, all steps should have handrails. Loose handrails must be resecured. Sometimes the handrail is secured in such a manner that allows little finger room. This is a hazardous condition, especially for children. Is there a window at the base of the staircase or on the landing? If there is, its sill should be at least 36 inches above the floor. This will prevent someone from falling through the window in the event of a fall down the stairs. If the sill is less than 36 inches high, a window guard should be installed as a precautionary measure.

Lighting the stairway is essential, especially for areas that are often neglected, such as basement steps. The location of the light fixture is unimportant as long as the light provides sufficient illumination for the entire staircase. The light should be controlled by three-way switches, one at the top and the other at the bottom of the staircase.

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