Photo Above: Note that the step down is just beyond the door swing.
This past week we inspected a ground floor suite. The house an architecturally designed home with many unique features and the expectations were that the suite would be comparable.
Upon entry, there was a dimly lit hallway followed by a well illuminated area just around the corner. Rather than looking for the hallway light switch, I just used the illumination from the more distant area and walked towards it.
Within 4 feet I lost my balance and almost fell down. Invisible to me was a one step down. The floor tile was light coloured and the step was nearly indistinguishable. That was a close call and my company protocol is to classify this as a near miss.
For a home inspector to have a near miss with a step is one thing. But what should the buyer do? Especially if this going to be a rental suite. Let’s not forget the liability issues that could result if the tenant had an accident.
Of course the best solution is to design-out the step if possible. Can a ramp be used instead? In this case it would not be possible. However, here is a list of recommendations that may be considered to minimize the risk of a fall.
- Make the overhead hallway light come on automatically with a proximity sensor.
- Add a high visibility floor strip at the drop to attract the resident’s or visitor’s eye to the change in elevation.
- Use contrasting coloured floor tiles between the upper and lower areas.
- Add a handrail at the step.
- Add spot illumination low to the ground at the step location.
- Add a sign on the exterior door with a caution to look out for the step down in the hallway.
- Add a bold stick-on or painted graphic on the wall or on the floor to point at the step.
Safety in a home is paramount. Always address issues that pose a risk to your well-being.