Thursday, November 16, 2017

How Home Design Can Create Danger!


This post is provided by Katherine Smith.

When we build or renovate a home, one of the highest priorities is often to make it uniquely ours. We want to include features that make it stand apart from every other house on the street. And thanks to greater availability of tools, training, and materials to the DIY renovator, it is easier than ever to take on the work yourself.

Unfortunately, that is where problems can emerge. It is not a big deal to paint or to change floor coverings, but the minute you start penetrating walls and floors, you are on some very risky ground that can quickly lead to expensive and dangerous structural mistakes.

Interfering With Utilities

We think of walls as hollow structures that do nothing but divide spaces. But that is certainly not true. It is very easy to cut into sheetrock or paneling and to get into electrical, water, gas, or sewer lines. Sometimes the problem is immediate, such as a tripped breaker that reveals a mistake. Other times, damage like a pinhole leak in a water line may go unnoticed until years of accumulated hidden damage comes into the open.

Even just adding demand to your utilities can cause trouble. Your home has a finite ability to supply energy and water. High water requirements will lower pressure and decrease functionality. Excessive demand for electricity can trip breakers and damage equipment. Situations like this are a big part of the business for Electrical Safety services, which performs inspections and upgrades to residential electrical systems.

Weakening The Structure

Again with those pesky walls. Sometimes we assume they are randomly placed inside a self-supporting shell, but the reality is that they are not. Some walls, known as partition walls, have no role in holding the house up. But load-bearing or structural walls certainly do, and any changes made to them can cause the house to begin settling, creating cracks in walls, leaks in ceilings, and countless other problems that may not show up for years.

While there are some rules of thumb for determining which type of wall is which, the best guideline is to leave wall changes to a professional or, at the very least, to assume all walls are structural and to treat them accordingly.

Dangerous Features

Form follows function, and if we neglect the latter, we can get in real trouble. Many of the things we like to include in our homes can be beautiful but dangerous as well. The danger is increased when we do things ourselves, because not only do we not know safety codes as thoroughly as professionals, we also may not have their skill level in construction and installation.

Staircases are a perfect example. They are parts of the home that perform a function, but that we also want to make into a showpiece for the home. We think of great cinematic entrances on staircases and want to make the same experience possible in our own homes, but a fabulous staircase is not all it is cracked up to be. Incorrectly-spaced balusters, slick walking surfaces, and unreliable mounting can make a beautiful staircase dangerous

As a rule, any deviation from the original design and use of a home represents an opportunity for something dangerous to happen. We must let our heads have an equal vote with our hearts in choosing what to do in our homes as well as who we allow to do it. 

The money saved by doing work ourselves can very quickly be lost when our lack of skill causes us to do something dangerous, unreliable, or nonfunctional, so we should always think of these criteria when considering whether to hire a professional or to carry out the work ourselves.

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