Safety is one of the most important aspects of a home. And when I talk about safety I do not mean just having a thief-proof house. There are other potential danger factors that can ruin your house and your day when you least expect it. For example, domestic accidents such as fires, falls, blows or ingestion of toxic substances… which may be the consequence of a house in poor condition.
That is why reviewing the occupancy certificate is one of the first things you need to do when you purchase a property. This document verifies that the property meets the minimum requirements of hygiene, health, safety and structure. It covers a lot of aspects, but we have selected the most important ones to consider:
Age of the property
The older the house is, the more likely it is that it will need renovations to ensure that the safety system is reliable. This includes the structure of the house, such as the beams, the flooring and the roof. Also, the facilities and some other features that we will see later. Bear in mind that each country has its own way to analyze the safety standards of a property. For example, in Spain there is the Technical Inspection of Buildings, a control to which the owners of the buildings of some cities must submit a revision form from time to time.
The dwelling must be built in a good, elevated site and away from industrial areas, traffic noise or insect breeding grounds. Review thoroughly the safety aspects of the property if it belongs to a substandard housing. That is, places with self-built properties under poor housing conditions due to the lack of resources. They are often situated at the edge of urban areas or on lands with high risks such as instability or floodings.
If the house is located on a ground floor, check that it is enough rain proof and it isolates the heat to protect you from rains or high temperatures. If it is on an upper floor, make sure the stairs are in good condition, with no missing or damaged steps, and with intact handrails.
Doors and windows
Did you know that 33% of thieves enter through the front door in the United States? That should be enough of a reason to inspect all exterior doors. Check that the frames are strong, the hinges are protected, and the wood is not hollow. In case there is a mail slot, make sure that the door cannot be opened through it. And remember to install a peephole or a bolt to make it even safer!
Regarding the windows, the latches that come by default are not always safe enough. Replace them with lever tumbler locks or by laminated or tempered glass that resist better.
Having sturdy doors and windows in the right places will not only help you prevent theft, it will also protect you from the bad weather and will cool your home when it is too hot. You can also use them as emergency exits in case of danger, so make sure there is nothing blocking them!
Flooring, walls and ceilings
The surface must be waterproof, smooth (but non-slip) and without cracks, to minimize the risk of falls, especially if you have children or live with an elderly person. As explained in this article, each room requires a distinct type of floor depending on its function. Don’t forget to check the materials, as there are substances that can increase the risk of allergies or asthma, according to studies such as the one carried out by Carl-Gustaf Bornehag.
The walls must also be smooth and waterproof, with no cracks or excessive slopes. Moreover, the outer coating should be in good condition: not damaged, without missing boards, or rotting paint.
As for the ceiling, it should be at least 3 meters high and with low thermal conductivity to insulate better the cold and heat.
The electrical installation of the house must be up to date with the current regulations; and has to be embedded in walls, boxes or metal conduits. In addition, the electrical panel must have differential switches.
An electrical installation in poor condition or not adapted to your house needs can be more dangerous than you think. For example, it may cause fires due to the overloading of circuits, faulty wiring or switches, poorly insulated material or the improper use of electrical appliances. If the property is old, there are even more reasons to revise it: they demand a higher current load.
As for the television and phone installations, it is recommended that the wiring and sockets have at least 2 sockets each if there are 1 or 2 bedrooms; and 3 if there are 3 or more.
The plumbing system of hot and cold water must have a general wrench for the whole house. However, there should be other ones in wet areas as well. Although you may not notice in the short term, humidity is one of the main problems of buildings and homes. To avoid this, use impermeable materials on walls and ceilings and keep gutters and drains clean.
On the other hand, make sure that there are siphons in the drains to prevent bad smells. Also, that the wastewater stream is channeled to the general sewerage network through waterproof and ventilated pipes.
A faulty heating system can cause fires or gas poisoning, especially in winter. For this reason, it is essential that you check the boiler once a year and control that everything is working correctly. For example, that the chimney stacks are not cracked or worn.
Regardless of the system you use, there must be an air inlet that replaces the one that is lost with the combustion. In the same way, there should be enough ventilation to the exterior of the house.
Stoves or fires in the house must have protective screens. This way they do not come into direct contact with combustible elements.
All homes should have some sort of security system. An alarm, motion sensors on doors and windows, smart locks, or smoke detectors. In this article you will find three gadgets to increase the safety of your smart home.
In any case, even if your house meets all safety requirements, it is important to take out a home insurance to cover possible contingencies. There are many types of loans depending on your needs, budget and your desired level of protection. However, if you have already been living in your new home for a while and you have realized that it does not meet the safety standards, I recommend you take a look at this article to know how to claim it to the property developer or homeowner.