7 Common Code Violations that You Don't Want to Overlook

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By Joe Killinger

Maintaining your building can be difficult to say the least, here are 7 common items that are usually overlooked but can usually, be fixed in minutes.

These tips may seem easy but they get overlooked often.

1) Missing & Broken Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors - Every bedroom in the home is required to have a hard-wired smoke alarm in the room, and in the hallway outside of all sleeping areas.  Many municipalities also now require carbon monoxide detectors. 

You not only need to make sure your smoke alarms are installed correctly, but also that they’re working properly.  One of the most common issues are dead batteries. New smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are tamper proof and come with a 10-year battery.

2) Hazardous Windows - Some homeowners look at windows as an added bonus, but fail to consider their condition, location, and type of glass. Your first order-of-business should be to replace windows near stairs and in bathrooms with tempered or safety-glazed glass. In fact, building codes require safety glass in new homes with windows that are near stairs and doorways, in showers, or pretty much any place where someone could slip and fall into the glass. Experts recommend that any single-pane windows be traded in for double-pane versions.

Here are a few additional questions and tips to keep in mind.

a) Do the frames have wind load labels?
b) Is the glazing double or triple glazed to provide insulation and to resist impact?
c) Are there visible fasteners to assure you they’re securely installed?
d) Tempered or safety glass must have a manufacturers designation, defining the type of glass and the safety glazing standard with which it complies.
e) The designation must be visible at final installation and be acid etched (i.e. applied so that it cannot be removed without being destroyed).
f) Are there bars over the bedroom windows, if so, do they have quick release levers?

3) Water Heater - An expansion tank is a small, extra tank that relieves the pressure if your water gets too hot and expands. You need to make sure your water heater has one. Without an expansion tank, the pressure can build up and cause the tank to explode. Good ventilation and a properly working temperature/pressure relief valve (T&P) are essential for a water heater to work correctly.

The average lifespans of both electric and gas water heaters are eight to thirteen years, so be sure to schedule professional maintenance checkups and purchase new equipment as necessary.  Although not necessarily required, also consider an overflow/drip pan, and bracing if your water heater is in earthquake country.  Lastly, if the tenant has access to the water heater, consider a water heater with a locking temperature control valve to ensure the water is not hot enough to scald someone.

4) Missing or Defective GFCIs - Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection is now required for outlets in the kitchen, bathrooms, garages, for all outdoor circuits, and really anywhere where water may get into them. It cuts power to a circuit if it detects a current change, protecting against electrical shocks. Test for the presence of GFCIs by plugging a GFCI receptacle tester (about $15 at home centers) into an outlet in each of these areas.

5) Missing Deck Flashing - Flashing needs to be installed between the deck ledger board and the house, and the ledger needs to be firmly attached. Incorrectly installed ledgers are the main cause of problems in do-it-yourself decks because the ledger may pull loose from the house. These decks can actually collapse, especially when loaded with people.

6) Handrails Without Returns - Codes require handrails to have “returns,” meaning they need to turn and end at the wall. Returns keep items such as sleeves and purse straps from getting caught on the end of the rails and causing a fall. Handrails need to be placed 34 to 38 in. above the nose of the stair treads and must be 1-1/4 to 2-5/8 in. thick.  Also consider installing additional bars if the gap between them is more than 4 inches wide.

7) Improper Bathroom Venting – Bathroom exhaust fans should vent to the outside—either through the roof or the side of the house. Stick your head into the attic to see how yours is vented. Improper venting can cause mold issues within the apartment.