Purchasing and moving into your first home is exciting. Chances are you had a full inspection and can be reasonably assured that everything in the house is in decent condition. Even so, there are a few safety concerns you should make sure are fully attended to. The following two items are not always addressed via an inspection, or there could be changes between the time of the inspection and when you take control of the property. Knowing what to check for can ensure you rest easy.
#1: Safety alarms
Depending on your home, there can be up to three safety alarms that you need to make sure are installed and fully operational. Even if these alarms were present at the time of your home inspection, they could be outdated or the previous owners may have taken them with them upon moving out. These alarms are:
- A smoke detector/fire alarm
- A carbon monoxide alarm
- A radon detector (if you live in an area where radon is a concern)
Both smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms need to be checked to ensure they are not expired. Most are only recommended for 10 years. It is also a good idea to change the batteries, since you have no way of knowing how old they are. You can get combination alarms for smoke and monoxide. Make sure one is placed on every floor of the house, particularly outside of bedrooms.
As for radon, if this is a concern in your area, then you will need to install alarms on the lowest floor of the home. Radon tends to sink and pool on lower levels. Basements, in particular, are a concern.
#2: Fireplace safety
A general purpose home inspection typically only checks a couple of key issues with the fireplace -- that the chimney is undamaged and capped properly. The inspector may mention that the chimney needs cleaned, but they won't generally look any further than that. If you plan to use your fireplace, it is necessary to to first have it properly attended to since you have no way of knowing when the last full cleaning occurred. Failure to do so increases the chances of a chimney fire or noxious gases flowing back into your home.
A commercial chimney cleaning service will not just clean the chimney, but will also make sure the chimney itself has no cracks or other concerning damage that is revealed once the soot is removed. If there is damage, they can repair it. It's a good idea to have the chimney cleaned annually thereafter.